Your information is of value to almost every other advertiser and service provider. It is not a secret that information phishing agents are always on the prowl to collect as much user information as possible from unsuspecting users.
How Is Your Personal Information Valuable?
Personal information such as age, gender, home address, email, phone numbers and online browsing behaviors are all essential commodities for large companies and advertising agencies to specifically tailor their products and services to the respective users. Online browsing behavior is generally indicative of the users’ interests, and companies can adapt their strategies to ensure maximum conversion for maximum profits.
Companies use different data and parameters acquired over time to accurately profile a person and to understand their personal interests, health status, social orientation and financial behavior.
This will help them reduce advertising expenditure and increase their revenue by targeting more sales. In effect, somebody is analyzing you as a person without your knowledge, and it is remarkably alarming to note that online browsing behavior can be tracked in many ways to properly profile a person quite accurately.
What Is The True Value Of This Information?
In a single word, invaluable. There are dedicated companies that solely work on mining as much personal information as possible from the largest demographics. Such information is highly valuable, and data mining companies earn millions of dollars annually by selling this information to the highest bidder.
How Do They Track This Personal Information?
There are countless ways by which sensitive personal information can be tracked through online sources:
Web History & Cookies
All websites have cookies and online tracking bots set to track all visitor oriented parameters such as visitor location, browsing data, search history, and other identifying information. In most cases, websites contain a simple script or code embedded within the page that will track this information. The user will not be made aware of any trackers or tracking cookies, instead, the cookies will install itself onto the user’s device to track user information over time.
Intercepting Email & Online Conversations
There are numerous agencies (mostly Government) that track online conversations without the consent of the user. Theis an example. It is relatively easy for tracking bots to intercept and de-encrypt data if the online data is not properly encrypted by any secure protocol. Data snooping experts can also utilize data retrieving technologies (read ‘hackers’) to identify and steal multiple personal identities and other sensitive information for their own gain.
Entering Personal Information In Return For Discount Coupons & Offers
How many times have you entered personal information on online websites and forms in exchange for bonuses, loyalty coupons and other offers? These offers are on most occasions; baits for gaining valuable user information, and in most cases, these offers are forgotten or ignored by the users. But the personal information stays with the company and can be used for advertising and promotional purposes.
Data Theft Through Public Network Access
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are highly popular and users always transmit sensitive information without any due thought or care. Public networks are usually full of hackers and bots with malicious intent, and data theft happens on a large scale. It is relatively easy for hackers to steal public information if the flow of data is not encrypted over public networks.
How To Stop People and Websites From Tracking You
Browser extensions can help prevent data tracking by cookies. Most browser add-ons available for Chrome, FireFox and IE help you to store cookies on a temporary cache and delete them after the browsing session to prevent any unauthorized data tracking. There are other browser add-ons that let you choose proxy servers to hide the original user location and other geo-related data. However, browser extensions are largely unsafe due to the open-source nature, and are not entirely reliable. Here are a few browser extensions that are largely trusted and works in avoiding any website level data snooping through installation of cookies:
Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, ScriptNo, Do Not Track Plus
Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, ScriptNo, Do Not Track Plus, Priv3
Other Browsers (IE, Safari, et al.)
VPN service providers, like HideMyAss! Pro VPN, IPVanish, and VyprVPN, are used to encrypt data and reroute traffic through proxy servers to hide all user related information. It is much safer than browser scripts, and is much more reliable. Apart from multiple levels of encryption, VPN service providers also enable you to view blocked content, stream online media, and enjoy peace of mind while transmitting information that is both sensitive and personal in nature.
Hiding Your Data The Old Fashioned Way
This is actually a great strategy, and is not uncommon to all of us. All you have to do is give bogus information at online sources. Create a unique email address for signing up for all offers and come up with an imaginary profile. Keep your personal information private and use the new information to perform all of your online activities.
In case you want to use your own identities, sign out of all existing accounts and open up a different browser or use a different operating system altogether. But it would be a wise idea to utilize the services of a VPN while using your original identity, so as to keep your personal and official information intact. Using imaginary and bogus online profiles is a great way of avoiding any kind of data tracking that will immediately relate to you in any way.