6 Ways to take control of your data
Data is big business these days, companies aren’t just making money off your purchases and ad revenue, they’re selling your personal data. With most consumers turning towards the internet for their purchases and social interactions, seeking to profit from the boom in traffic is advertiser’s number one goal. To do so, they target ad campaigns directly at the people who will respond best, it’s an advertisers dream. Outdoor companies can choose to only market to young active adults, investment companies can choose to market only to those approaching retirement. Your age, gender, race, habits, buying history, and browsing history – it’s all up for sale to marketing managers.
How are they collecting your data?
Cookies, they’re not just delicious snacks anymore. Most of the online data tracking occurs through cookies. Think back to the last site you visited odds are, if it was the first time you viewed the site, you were asked to accept a small cookie. Cookies are small snippets of code that attaches itself to your computer browser, following and recording your actions. They can attach themselves at all different times – when you first log on, when you add an item to your cart, clicking social media links, even having open windows while you browse in another.
So what do cookies do?
Nearly every action you take online is collected through some kind of cookie – these cookies then send the data back to advertisers and companies. Advertisers use this information to target ads, programs, and marketing campaigns directly to you. A simple example is a scenario that we’re all familiar with. You add an item into your cart, but right before checkout change your mind and navigate away from the page. Only to find the item you added seems to follow you from page to page for days after — even months!
What data is collected?
Even data you fill into yourself is collected and used to target you. In fact, it’s safe to assume that every link you click, every page you like, message you send, or item you view is being tracked and databased in order to market items directly to you. Even your location is tracked through geocaching in addition to what types of cars you drive, your hobbies, even your children. Which explains how new mothers so quickly become the target of ad campaigns.
What can you do to stop it?
Data collection isn’t just creepy it can expose too much information about you and make it easier for scam artists and hackers to break into your personal information. There are several programs that promise to stop ad campaigns from targeting you, but good practices are needed to stop cookies from tracking the information in the first place. Retake control over this information with these simple and easy to implement steps.
1. Choose Incognito
Learning to activate incognito will help in combating cookies and malicious programs. In Google Chrome, this is called Incognito, in Firefox and Safari, private browsing. Activating this will tell your browser to no longer accept cookies from websites and third parties. It will also keep your location safe and prevent your computer from storing any information about your browsing history after the window is closed. Definitely choose this option if you’re browsing for a surprise gift!
2. Log out of sessions
Simply tabbing out of social media, shopping sites, or other programs without logging out first is a bad habit we’ve gotten into lately. Unfortunately, when you leave a browser window open and continue searching on other sites the open browser can still see your data and record your purchases and activity. When you’re done checking a site, log out and close the tab before moving on to other pages. This is especially true for social media – since remaining logged in allows social media buttons to track your data and convert it into targeted ads in your news feed.
3. Strike a balance with logins
Recently, many sites have started offering a choice to login with your social media account. It’s quick, it’s convenient, and it’s loaded with activity tracking incentives for the site. When you log in with your social media account, all the activity on the site becomes available to the marketers on the specific social media. The alternative is typing out all your information into the site and guessing if the site will track and provide other sites with your data.
4. Opt out of customer loyalty programs
In store, online, even your operating system wants permission to send data back to marketers. Why wouldn’t they? Big data is the newest profit generating service that companies offer. Typically the discounts offered are available to all users if you ask, but if you must sign up for loyalty programs in store, use a false address and a spam email account. This way you’ll receive the discounts and bonuses without having your information sold.
5. Use a VPN service
VPNs or virtual private networks, are the go to product for private browsing. Becoming the gold standard in internet security didn’t happen overnight. VPN’s are a highly desired service that allows the user to hide their identity online and transmit their data and information safely. All while preventing the data from falling into the wrong hands. Activating a VPN connection will allow you to shop, browse, chat on social media, download information, and view shows all while keeping your private data out of the hands of researchers. There’s nothing more to do once your VPN is on, browsing the internet is exactly the same as before, just a whole lot safer.
VPNs allow users to view content from other countries, too. By allowing the user to display a IP address from different countries you can check up on the news from the UK, view a German site, or unblock content from your home country while you live or travel abroad.
6. Control your data
As our lives move from paper and pen to the high-paced internet, it’s important that every user learn about their privacy rights. End the advantage that advertisers have over you and take control of your personal information.