Over the years, we have written about privacy issues roughly 400 times. As we continue noting, things keep getting worse. Not better. Thus, we look at how and why we are tracked online.
From Norton: How and Why We Are Tracked Online
Today, Norton (now NortonLifeLock) is a leader in security software. Recently, it presented an article and infographic on Internet tracking. Below, we show some highlights.
According to Bob Shaker, Head of Norton for Gamers:
Internet tracking is virtually standard practice for Web browsers and internet-connected devices. With Web sites watching how we engage with their content to improve user experiences. While advertisers pore over our data to target us with relevant products and services. Among other rationales.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you or your data collected are at risk. But shouldn’t we all know how and why our data are being collected? It’s our data, after all. That’s precisely what we explore here. The what, why, and how of Internet tracking. Plus, tips to cover your digital tracks, if you so choose.
We focus on the why and how.
Why We Get Tracked
The premise of Internet tracking: The more Web sites know about us, the more they understand us. And ideally, they use that intel to better serve us. That might translate into a quicker and more convenient Web browsing experience. You might even consider and find value in how at the accuracy of YouTube or Netflix at suggesting the show you want to binge-watch next. Or that Amazon manages to show you the product you need to buy right when you open the site.
In addition, Internet tracking:
- Creates revenue streams: Some sites both store your user data and sell it.
- Aids law enforcement: Some agencies monitor online user behaviors to spy on suspicious individuals.
- Measures business performance: Firms reference their site analytics, meaning what consumers engage with most on their sites.
- Monitor a Web site’s usability: Keeping a close eye on how visitors engage with a site helps pinpoint and correct any areas falling short.
How We Get Tracked
Besides cookies, consider a few other commonly used data tracking methods:
- Web beacons, AKA web bugs or tracking beacons, track how you engage with a specific Web page, including content you click.
- IP addresses connect with all Internet-connected devices. They are required to visit a site.
- Session replay scripts record a visitor’s activity on a site, including their mouse movement, clicks, and scrolls.
- Favicons (supercookies) operate similarly, with more difficulty to decline or remove.
- Account tracking keeps tabs on your online activity while logged into a specific online account or platform.
- Mouse tracking software records online users’ mouse movements to analyze how they interact with a site.
- Browser fingerprinting stitches together information about your device. To create a unique identifier that traces all of your online activity.
- Cross-device tracking matches your browsing habits across devices.
- Click-through rate measures the times an online user clicks on and visits a piece of content suggested or advertised to them.
Norton’s Summary Infographic