And how to evade them
The newest research by NordVPN shows that Canadian websites have 16.4 trackers on average. This is the eighth biggest result out of the 20 countries studied. Streaming websites in Canada have even more – 25 trackers on average.
Next come health websites with 23 trackers per website. Digital media sites come into third place with an average of 22 trackers. Porn and education websites have the lowest degree of tracking, with four and one trackers, respectively, per website.
Trackers are usually inserted into the code of websites and are difficult to detect for a regular user. The kinds of information trackers collect can include IP address and location, browsing history, a user’s clicks on a website, what items they looked at and for how long, and the data about the browser and device they’re using.
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Trackers can help website admins improve users’ experience after analyzing how visitors interact with their website.
On the other hand, the information helps to create a user’s profile sold to third parties (such as Google, Facebook, and Adobe). They use the profile to serve more targeted and intrusive ads that follow users from website to website.
The worst-case scenario is if cybercriminals get their hands on this data. They could compile a detailed portfolio about someone and use it against them in a phishing attack by crafting a highly personalized and believable message.
According to another survey, 52 percent of Canadians worry about being tracked by social media giants (like Facebook), 43 percent are concerned that their data is collected by information and advertising aggregators (like Google), and 39 percent don’t want marketing agencies to get hold of their data.
Here are some of the ways users can become less trackable online:
- Use a VPN. By using a VPN, you will hide your real IP address and location from all third parties, including your ISP, cybercriminals, network administrators, and advertisers.
- Install tracker blocker. These stop your browser from collecting information about you and may also work as an ad blocker. Some tracker blockers, like NordVPN’s Threat Protection, offer other cybersecurity features, like malware protection.
- Use privacy browsers. Get an internet browser specifically tailored for people with online privacy in mind: no auto-syncing, no spell-check, no auto-fill, and no plug-ins.
- Ditch Google. Google tracks a lot of data about you – if you want to avoid that, you’ll have to opt for other email providers and search engines.
Daniel Markuson is a digital privacy enthusiast and an Internet security expert at NordVPN, a leading virtual private network (VPN) provider.
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Troy Media is an editorial content provider to media outlets and its own hosted community news outlets across Canada.