Many Ways Websites Track You
How do we get tracked? It is important to understand this. Suppose, you are looking for coaching classes online. After a day or so, you start receiving emails from various websites that offer you online tutorials, coaching material, and even home tuitions. Whereas, you did not register on any of these sites and surf these sites. Then how come these websites got the details of the data you were looking for online? Well, when you surf the net, the websites keep a track of your activities and use the data you share, to track you. These websites also collect information about the type of websites and pages you are visiting, your location, what you usually read or search for on the Internet, etc. This basically can be termed as online tracking.
How do these websites keep a track online? Tracking scripts are used for this purpose.
Tracking scripts can be deployed on any website and can track visitors easily. Tracking script identifies the number of people using your site and their characteristics. These scripts are designed in a way that these can be downloaded and cached safely in a browser. There are also many ways available to configure tracking scripts. The most common tracking scripts are
Google Analytics and Quantcast.
The Google Analytics shows the usage patterns to a site’s owner whereas Quantcast can be used to broadcast the number of people that use the site and some of their characteristics
Fortunately, there are many built-in browser options which may save you from tracking
Here Are the ways by which websites can track you.
How do you receive a letter through post? It is because of your
postal address, which is unique. Similarly, when the data is
transferred from one computer to the other in a network, it is done with the help of a unique numerical address assigned to the
hardware (computer, router, printer, etc.) connected to the internet. This is called an IP Address. IP address is an acronym for Internet Protocol address. It is similar to our home or office address which is unique. Whenever you visit a website, the device you use, shares an IP address with the website. With the help
of this IP address, a website can roughly estimate your geographical location
Your IP address might look like this: 188.8.131.52
Cookies are small data files, which are sent by the website you visit and are generated by your browser. These are the
stored on your device. Cookies are used to track your record of visit to a particular website/webpage. A website recognises you with the help of cookies, when you again visit that website. Similarly, when you use your credit card for any transaction, a cookie will store your login information. Different web browsers have different privacy settings. You can go to your browser settings and choose private browsing. This will provide you control over which kind of cookies you will accept. If you do not want to allow cookies, you may disable them.
Types of Cookies
- First Party Cookies: These kinds of cookies are generally used to store your login id, password, auto-fill information, etc. for the frequently visited websites. For example, when you use your card to recharge your phone, the site stores all the login information and you only have to enter the password or CVC number.
- Third-Party Cookies: These are the cookies that websites store to get details of your search history and web you visit browsing history. These are most often used by advertising companies to track you across multiple websites that you visit.
- Session Cookies: These are temporary cookies that are deleted after you close down your browser.
3. Super/Persistent Cookies
Super cookies are the type of ‘tracking.cookies which are designed to permanently reside on a user’s device. These are inserted into the HTTP header by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to gather data about the browsing history and habits of a user These are also known as Unique Identifier Headers. Unlike web cookies, Supercookies are difficult for the
users to detect and remove from their browser or device as they can be camouflaged which can prevent their detection.
These cookies are used to target users for specific advertising and promotional purposes but can be a potential privacy threat to the users. Thus, without the user’s consent, passing such information about your subscribers can be unethical on the part of the ISP.
While browsing a website, when you click on the website link to open the source of information you requested for the data like your IP address, location, machine type, web browser, etc. is sent to the linked website. The website will not only set up a cookie in your browser but also record the URL of the website where you came from. So, HTTP Referrer can be
defined as an online source, which increases the visits and the number of visitors to a website. It may include search engines, links from other websites, social media, online advertisements, email marketing campaigns, and links built into software. A referrer log is also maintained, which can lead to the referring page and the link that was clicked to reach a
User agent refers to the software program such as your browser or a session initiating application (E.g., Skype or any other web-calling application). These applications when initiate a web session, pass your information such as application type, operating system used, software source, version, etc. This information can be tracked and stored by web servers to determine the user’s web activities and behaviour.
You can find out the details that are sent by your browser to a website by typing “my user agent” in your browser. After you press the Enter key, the details similar to the screenshot given below are displayed. The details include the browser name, its version data, etc.
With all these trackers that are mentioned above, a user’s browsing habits, devices used, interests, and identities can be
tracked. So, the question arises that is there any way by which you can access the web without revealing much about yourselves? Yes! Further section reveals the information to the above question.
In the sections above, you have seen that while browsing the web, a user may wish to hide his identity on the web, as the
information may be used for:
- Tracking our web movements
- Attacking your profile in the cyber world
Do you Want to know how to protect your personal information then stay tuned for part 3..
I hope, this article was helpful and knowledgeable to you, If you have any suggestions then please drop it in the comment section.