Have you ever searched for a product, and then ads for that product followed you across the internet no matter where you looked? Advertisers and companies can assign you a unique identifier and track you across websites, attempting to determine your interests and habits to deliver personalized ads, trying to get you to buy more of their products.
When you visit almost any website, even trusted sites, data such as your IP address is collected and cached. This allows companies, advertisers, analytics firms, search engines, social networks, and data brokers to track your identity, browsing habits, shopping preferences, language, operating system, time zone, and more. And despite how many times you try to clear them, some cookies (identifying data that follows you on the internet) DON’T go away when you delete them from your Web browser.
–The Wall Street Journal, “7 Ways You’re Being Tracked Online”, 8/04/2015
Contrary to popular belief, “anonymous mode” (also known as incognito window) does NOT prevent these 3rd parties from tracking you.
Incognito mode only effects how YOUR computer handles data, not your employer, your internet service provider, or the websites you visit.
Besides just using this data to build an online profile of your habits without your consent, companies can use this data in more malicious ways, such as overcharging you when it seems like you are more likely to buy. Commercial tracking can even result in individualized prices for everyone (for example: if you buy something expensive, you may be shown higher prices in the future.) Or, sites that sell tickets (like buses, concerts, airlines) can charge you more if you have looked at the same date a few times. Even brick and mortar locations such as malls and stores have begun to use wi-fi and cell signals to track customers in their stores to see patterns where people are spending.
Data that you may have contributed yourself (ie, your name, address, personal interests), as well as information that you didn’t voluntarily offer (ie the type of smartphone you own and even your physical location) can be gathered without your knowledge or consent. According to a paper written by researchers from Princeton and KU Leuven Universities, advanced device fingerprinting technologies, such as canvas fingerprinting can even be surreptitiously used to access your private accounts, webcam, or even steal your money and data.
“Even if you are using Incognito mode, anti-tracking toolbars, or strict privacy settings in your web browser, you can be tracked.”
–Forbes, “You Are Being Tracked Online By A Sneaky New Technology”, 7/23/2014
Be aware the incognito mode does not mean ultimate protection or anonymity. Protect yourself against unwanted downloads,viruses, trojans, and trackers.
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