Websites Are Tracking Your Personal Information: Be Aware - MobileAppDaily

Websites Are Tracking Your Personal Information: Be Aware

The Internet has all your information. Are Tracking Your Personal Information: Be Aware

How often do you turn to the Internet? Is it always to look up for a piece of information or the Internet is your buddy at times when your mind sits idle wishing not to put pressure on the brain cell? In either of the cases, you are sure to head towards your laptop or the computer system. It’s a general scenario for every working professional out there and the incident is most likely to happen over a weekend.

Turning to Google for getting in-depth knowledge is nothing new. However, you may get shocked to know that the websites you browse through stores all the related information about you.

As a visitor, you may have come across few websites that propose to fill up some information before you have even started. Have you ever thought why these forms suddenly pop-up and why they ask so much of information even when it is not necessary for them? It’s because they could get a hint about your preference besides piling up the data to aim at you with specific ads. Here is a detailed note on why the data is tracked by the websites.

Personal Information

For signing up to any website the users need to have an account there or another way to login to a website is through Facebook and the Google account. Both the later ways seem much quicker for users to sign up to the websites. When doing so, users unknowingly pass the information to a new website that includes a bit of personal information about your friends, your interests, liking, disliking and preferences on travel.

To Track The Location

IP addresses of computers (which is unique for every system) makes their location different from others. There are tracking scripts that make it easy for website owners to track the unique address of visitors. The IP address provides all the important information to learn about a visitor that includes the Internet service provider, the geographical location of the visitor and the name of the city they live in.

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Let’s start with a real life example, while browsing a new site you suddenly come across an ad that has a product similar to what you browsed a few minutes before. This became possible because of the data that a website stores about you. Your personal information is transferred with the help of cookies that every website host for a specific purpose. There are third-party cookies that transfer your information to the website owners.

HTTP Referrer

Soon after a user clicks a link, the browser loads the web page and tells the website where the users have come from. For example, if you click the website let’s suppose you click, this website will get the information about your arrival from the information that will first load on the browser. The HTTP referrer  header is responsible for loading this information. The case remains similar when you further click a link on the websites.

Web page additionally includes ad tracking script that helps browsers to track the page or the information you are currently viewing. Web bugs (web beacons), that are file objects remain on a web page to monitor user behavior. They also track the information related to a user browsing through any of the websites.

Email And Phone Number

Signing up for a new website requires you to fill up your mobile number and the email address too. While asking for your email ids, these websites promise to deliver news about the latest happening in the tech industry or any other exceptional detail. It is suggested to think twice before giving the details. Providing this critical information is all right when you are giving away the details to the trusted websites.

Tracking Scripts And Cookies

Websites store information in the form of cookies. Whenever a user signs up for any website, cookies store the information in order to make the next session more meaningful for the users. Therefore, cookies have all the information related to any particular user sessions. So, either you make changes to your banking login information or do some settings in any of the web pages, cookies store all the information that you make. Cookies also track the browsing history of the users, which for websites is a way to know about the preferences of the users in order to tweak their own setting to suit their requirements. So, cookies are never going to bring the damage, but the case with the third-party apps is not the same.    

Tracking Scripts

While third-party apps have also legitimate users, the problem lies in the fact that these cookies are mostly used by advertising networks across different platforms. A number of websites make use of these tracking scripts and if two different websites use the same cookies, your browsing history could be shared with both of these websites and could be linked to each other.

Social networking scripts do have cookies or tracking scripts. Let me explain the scenario with an example. In case you're logged in to Facebook and visit any other website by logging into the website through Facebook, the Facebook like button (which is actually a script) will get all your information.  

Super Cookies

If you are anyone from a technical background, you may clear your browser’s cookies but that’s not a solution at all. Super cookies are becoming common now. And one such cookie is evercookie Super cookie store cookie data in multiple places, which may include Flash cookies, Silverlight storage, your browsing history, and HTML5 local storage. The cookies make use of clever tracking methods to get the information about the users.

One such clever method is offering a unique value (in the form of color) to a certain cookie. These colored cookies are stored in users’ browser cache and they identify the users’ activity in case the user makes the same action as the cookie is assigned to keep the track of. This way the cookie get the related information about the users as the color value plays an important role in identifying the same. So, even if you clear your browser cookies and not your Flash cookies, the website will still have the information by copying the value from Flash cookie. This way the users cannot clear the information.

Demographics And System Information

Google evaluates the search performance of the users to predict their age and gender. The demographic data is provided to website owners by Google analytics. Websites can not only predict your gender and other crucial information but can also learn influential information about you.    

User Agent

Every time a connection is made to a website, the browser sends a user agent. The user agent identifies the browser and the operating system to the web server. This is another piece of data for advertisers to target users with their preferred choices. The web server can import this information to other websites in order to spread the liking of the users. This way more websites get ready to serve to the users as per their preferences.

Browser Fingerprinting

Browsers store all the information they could possibly store about a user. And this includes information on the operating system, browser version, installed plug-ins and their versions, the operating system’s screen resolution, the installed fonts, the time zone, and other crucial information about the user. This piece of information is crucial for any advertiser wishing to target the users.

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What You Can Do

Data collection by websites is nothing new. Websites need data in order to serve right content to the users. That said, it is important on your part to acknowledge what you (the users) are offering to the websites. Additionally, there are add-ons that could help you see for yourself who is tracking you. Lightbeam is one such addition for Firefox, which shows users which third-party apps are present when they are visiting any website. This add-on can be added as an extension to get all the possible information.

The End Note

Every user who browses through the website gives his/her information to the same. It’s nothing new but the users must give the information to websites that can be trusted. It is important on the users’ part to know where they are giving their crucial information. In case, websites are providing you with required services it is fair enough. But the users’ data must not be compromised at any cost.

Editor’s recommendation: Looking for more information from official sites? Do visit Mozilla page here. For information on third-party tracking on the web, click here.

Neha Baluni
Written By
Neha Baluni

Being a Senior Technical Writer at MobileAppDaily, Neha Baluni loves jotting down her piece of opinion for the advancing technology in mobile app world. Having a journalism background, she is a writer by day and a reader by night. Her passion for writing covers different categories of technical and non-technical genre. In addition to writing, Neha loves traveling a lot.

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