When surfing the web, every website you visit is storing your data and information in one way or another. It could be tracking the pages you visit, your preferences, your personal information, and such. This can primarily be used to create a user profile to cater to a more personalized purchase experience.
A Personalized Experience?
Sadly, there are websites that can betray your trust. It’s not uncommon for sites to share or sell this information with advertisers and marketers without your consent.
This makes for a very disturbing prospect. You don’t know who is handling your information or where it is going. Cookies, web tracking, and web bugs are three ways technology is being used to procure this information.
Cookies and website tracking help in revealing data. Such data includes the time the person visited a particular website, the most visited websites, etc. whereas web bugs trace people’s activities on the internet and can even be sent through emails.
In fact, this ‘personalized’ website phenomenon that takes place by letting websites track you, can also lead to higher prices in your shopping cart. You may notice that airline tickets and certain products in your shopping website cart can fluctuate and increase in price if you visit it often.
There are many ways websites misuse our data under the guise of taking the information to create a more personalized experience.
Here are 8 Ways Websites Can Betray Your Privacy:
1. Selling Personal Data and Information
Every time you order something online you are asked to provide your email address and your residential address. The process put you at the risk of letting the website sell this information to third party advertisers. This is the primary reason that you may receive emails from vendors and companies that you have never heard of or contacted before. Most large businesses and companies do not partake in this activity. However, if there ever is a data breach or hack in their systems, you can’t be sure what personal information has been leaked and how it will be used.
2. Tracking Website History
The second you start surfing a website, it will start tracking your every move. This enables the site to help suggest the products that you most seem interested in. But the fact that websites do this without your consent can be scary and worrisome. This tracked information is used for marketing products and service. Hence, using a VPN whenever possible can be a good idea. Some websites do have an option to stop this automatic tracking, but this option is rarely easy to find, if present at all.
3. Price Fluctuations Based on Device
It is a common phenomenon to have the price of a product or service fluctuate when you keep checking it. The website understands you may buy the product if you need it, even if its price has increased.
It was noticed that people using a Mac saw higher prices for products than those using a Window PC!
4. Your Unique Browser
The configuration of your browser is as unique as each individual’s fingertips and works as a special identifier for you. Called browser fingerprinting, this includes browser features such as the version you are currently using, which plugins are available, etc. so that other websites can easily identify you. Other information that comes under this is your time zone, fonts that are installed, resolution of your screen, etc. In fact, if you disable cookies from being stored on your computer or laptop, then that too is an identifying feature that helps websites make your browser distinct.
5. Use of Super Cookies
You may think you are smart if you delete your browser history and cache to remove cookies tracking your website activity. But what you don’t know is super cookies are created to outsmart this very move. Super cookies work by storing themselves away from the main place where cookies are typically saved and in multiple places, so that even if you delete this tracking data, the super cookies have the ability to reactivate old cookies when they need to. Websites monitor routines and activities using super cookies and can even peek into data from other installed web browsers, as they are particularly sneaky.
6. Not as Anonymous as You Think
Many people think that they are completely anonymous when surfing the web because they haven’t used their name anywhere. But third-party companies and websites collecting this information and data are rarely interested in what your actual name is. What they do is assign each user with a number that indicates the amount you spend on products and what products you buy. In fact, in the USA, the National Security Agency (NSA) uses this very information as a way to target suspects.
7. Syncing Cookies from Multiple Websites
Some websites work together and create a process called cookie syncing; an elaborate scheme that works by identifying the device used by the person browsing the website. The various websites share this information with each other. They put together your assigned identification numbers as a way to accumulate data and information on you more easily. The ultimate goal of putting all this information together is so that advertisers can better understand the needs of the user. Accordingly, they will cater to them with specific products and services.
8. Tracking Social Media Scripts
When using a social media website, users are giving them permission to use their personal information. This data is mostly collected by tracking scripts that are actually found outside of these social networking websites. On websites where it is possible to “like’ the post through Facebook, the social media website can store your login state as a cookie. This information again is used as an identifier for individuals surfing the internet and can be used to target the right advertisements and services with the right audience.