When asked by AZ Family reporters about the phenomenon of seeing advertisements pop up after showing interest in a product, Halavais shared there are a number of technologies that allow businesses to tailor hyper-specific advertisements to users browsing the web.
Advertisers do that, he says, “by tracking where you’ve gone before, and following you around the web to give you little nudges in hopes that you’ll spend a little more money. You may even find these companies know more about you than you do.”
Many prefer these hyper-specific ads, and that is OK. Even with the knowledge of tracking, Professor Halavais notes you can minimize your digital footprint without completely eliminating it. “You can go crazy about this and make sure no one is ever tracking you, but I think you need to strike an even balance.”
Ways to Protect Your Information Online
According to Professor Halavais, there are a few easy steps you can take to protect your information online. Three immediate actions are:
- Avoid using the same email address and password for a variety of websites and online retailers. If you have difficulty remembering all your passwords, tools like LastPass can help track your login credentials
- Be mindful of how and where you search. Some popular search engines are known to surveil users. You can avoid being tracked by using a private window — such as Incognito mode in Google — in your preferred browser. You can also use search engines like DuckDuckGo.com, which emphasizes data protection.
- Opt out of tracking. You may have the option to minimize how you are tracked online. Explore sites like SimpleOptOut.com that allow you to opt out of data sharing permissions you may not realize are active.
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