Nobody wants to hear that someone is following them around. However, it’s an ugly truth that we all live with in our current times. In fact, this has been going on for a very long time on the world wide web. It seems that it just recently has gotten widespread attention but privacy advocates have been warning us for many years that this was happening. We just kept feeding our information into the machine anyway.
You have probably heard about how much the big tech companies know about you and your activities both on and off the web. You may have glanced over an article or two and thought “this doesn’t pertain to me… I have nothing to hide” (we will address that statement in a later post).
There are many ways that you are tracked (web, apps, phone, store visits, maps, etc) and we will try to address them in this series but for this post we are going to discuss trackers and cookies on the websites that you visit.
There are many different technologies that help the web be more convenient. Cookies are one of them.
Cookies are a file stored in your browser. It doesn’t do much other than sit there with information. When you go to a website, your browser will most likely automatically accept a cookie unless you have that option disabled. Cookies are mostly used to make your experience on the site easier by saving your login information (if you tell it to), or saving the products you place in a shopping cart. They also track you within the website as you move around and click on things. This helps website owners understand how people use their store or website.
For instance, if you go to a weather website and put in your zip code, the cookie will remember your zip code so you don’t have to put it in the next time you check the weather. These are called “first party cookies” and are mainly for convenience to help make your experience at their website a smooth ride.
Then there are the “third party” cookies. Those are cookies placed in your browser by someone outside the website you are visiting. These are normally advertisers. They will see that you have visited that website to get the weather and then when you leave the weather site and visit another website (say, to buy an umbrella), if the second website is in the same ad network, then the third party cookie gets updated and they know that you have been to both places.
You would think, oh… what are the odds that the two websites would have the same advertising network? Very high. The google ad network is huge…
Google’s ad trackers are on 75% of the top one million websites, and Facebook trackers are on 25%.
As of this writing, according to builtwith.com, 10,889,329 live websites use Google Adsense and almost 30 million websites use their analytics service. That is an extremely high chance you will visit many websites that are on the google network.
Especially… ESPECIALLY if they are sites that offer free services because the ad network is how they make their money back (see our first article on The Price of Free).
Facebook and Twitter track people not only through their own websites, but also through their “like” and “newsfeed” displays on other people’s websites. Yes, those things track you too! If you see a Facebook feed, Instagram feed, Twitter feed, etc, displayed on someone else’s website, you are being tracked.
The following are two quotes from a New York Times article called “I Visited 47 Sites. Hundreds of Trackers Followed Me. “
You can see where it starts to look a little ominous about how you are tracked for advertising money. It’s not just tracking, though, it’s super intrusive. They know things about you that you probably didn’t want anyone to know. In fact, we wrote an article about that a while back: Click here to find out what Google knows about you.
In the end, we want you to know that here at ILJ Mail, we are not part of any advertisement network and we will never sell your data to third parties. We use a statistics program that anonymizes IP addresses and that’s only so we can see how people move around in our website so we can improve things if needed or see if we get any visits from articles we publish. Our email service is private and is never scanned for data mining purposes or advertisement tracking.
At ILJ Mail, you are home.
Join us next time to learn how the big tech companies are watching you search for your most vulnerable mental and physical health issues and the startling news that they have access to millions of personal health records! All in the name of advertisement revenue…
This is the second post is in a series called “Paying With Your Privacy”. You can read the first post in this series here: The Price of Free
Here are some websites used for information for this article. Please note that when you leave our website, you are then subject to someone else’s privacy practices. Just because we link to another website does not mean we endorse their views or agree with their opinions.
How Many Websites Use Google Adsense – https://trends.builtwith.com/ads/Google-Adsense
How Many Websites Use Google Analytics – https://trends.builtwith.com/websitelist/Google-Analytics
Are Ads Following You? – https://spreadprivacy.com/followed-by-ads/
Online Tracking – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0042-online-tracking
I Visited 47 Sites. Hundreds of Trackers Followed Me – https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/23/opinion/data-internet-privacy-tracking.html
(registration may be needed to read this article)
ILJ Mail – Find Out What Google Knows About You – https://www.iljmail.com/why-private-email/