Your Digital Footprint – Here’s What Data is Collected from You as You Browse the Web

The Internet offers endless sources of information and entertainment. However, roaming the Internet could mean sharing more personal data than you realize. Unfortunately, many abuse the Internet to steal personal information from the average user. Read on to learn more about what data is collected from you as you browse the web and ways you can protect yourself and your loved ones from a cyberattack.

What do websites track?

Each time you visit a website, it collects certain data about you.
Digital Footprint Infographic

  • User’s DetailsWebsites can track where you are located by using your IP address. Companies want to learn how to advertise various products and services to you and by knowing your location, the type of device you use, or even your browser preference, trackers can get a better idea of which products or services you may be interested in, as well as how to best advertise them to you.
  • Website interaction By tracking how users interact with websites, such as what they click on and time spent browsing, businesses can improve their websites and the customer experience. From previously viewed items to details about your size or preferences, companies can learn a lot about you just from the way you shop. This information is also often utilized for advertising purposes.

What are the types of website tracking?

Companies can track the pages you visit on their website. This is referred to as first-party tracking. A website may track you on their website to offer you a “recently viewed” page. Third-party tracking, or cross-site tracking, occurs when information tracked is collected from one website and sent to other companies, often for advertising purposes on other websites. Website tracking can be temporary, meaning data is only tracked while someone is visiting the website. Tracking can also be permanent, which can mean the website will remember you and keep a profile on you and watch where you go on the Internet.

How do businesses track data?

There are two main ways to track website information: cookies and fingerprinting. Cookies are another term for small units of data stored on a user’s device after visiting a website. A website may use cookies while visitors are on their page to remember preferences or for advertising efforts. Fingerprinting is often used to create a profile on the website visitor and gather information such as the device and browser used, the operating system, language, time zone, and other factors.

Steps you can take to avoid tracking as you browse the Internet.

  1. Install a Virtual Private Network (VPN): VPNs are designed to disguise your information through encryption and make it difficult to track your online activity and data. However, VPNs do not protect from viruses, making virus defense still critical for protection from malware.
  2. Read all Terms of Agreement: We often rush to read our search results and usually consent to give away our information. Do your best to read through any terms you are agreeing to before checking off that box. This goes for apps and websites you visit.
  3. Check your browser settings: The browser you use should have a setting that gives you the option to disable cross-site tracking. Depending on what browser you use, it could look like one of the following: “Do not track”, “Prevent cross-site tracking”, or something similar.
  4. Clear out cookies: You can clean out cookies and the cache on your computer. The more consistently you do this, the safer your information is from tracking.
  5. Update social media settings: Facebook has an ad preference page where you can limit Facebook’s ability to target and advertise to you, both on and off the social network. Update your settings to reflect your comfort level with ads you receive.
  6. Vary your passwords: Using different passwords for your various accounts, you can protect your information on other sites you visit should your password be tracked.

With over a decade of experience, Geeks on Site is the leading expert in all things tech. We can help you set up the proper data protection measures for your devices and network, including malware or virus protection software.

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