Have you felt like someone is looking over your shoulder when you access the internet? Tracking your every move on social media and sending you ads about things you were thinking of buying? If so, you are a victim of targeted advertisements.
Advertisements on the internet are like a boomerang; you look for a book to read on Amazon, and it comes back to you as an ad in your feed, on Facebook or Instagram. Tech giants like Facebook and Google, among several other big data companies, are monitoring your every move on the internet, but you might be thinking, why does a company like Google want to track you? Well, simply because you have data to give, which can be used by advertisers on these platforms, and is eventually used to generate more revenue.
Targetted ads are like an annoying stalker that will keep freaking you out even if you shift devices. To get your data, companies use tracking technologies like third-party cookies and tracking pixels. Once they have secured your data, they connect it to unique identifiers creating your online profiles. These profiles can be used to identify you over the internet across different devices using deterministic/probabilistic matching. These profiles are then analysed using machine learning algorithms to understand what makes you tick? What you like? What opinions you have and how companies can influence you. These methods are so advance that they can sway elections.
All this data collection is not restricted to your web browsers. Apps installed on your phone collect all kinds of data and send it to Facebook for analysis to send you targeted ads. The Facebook SDK at the heart of many popular apps like Spotify, ticktock and Venmo is used to collect data from different apps which makes targetted ads more specific.
Looking at these banners of ads which are tracking your every move to give you an “enhanced user experience” can get on your nerves. Although there is no way to keep these prying eyes at bay and to stop them from collecting your data completely. You can follow a few steps to reduce the number of targeted ads you see.
While there are loads of other platform-specific methods to help you enhance your experience without throwing tailored advertisements your way, the four mentioned below should help you get started.
Also read: What is Differential Privacy and does it keep user data anonymous?
Opting out of Facebook’s targeted advertisement
Although making any kind of changes to your settings won’t stop Facebook from collecting your data or showing you ads but there is a way to make these ads less personalised. Log into your Facebook account using using a web browser and follow the steps mentioned below.
Step 1: Click on the inverted triangle on the top-right corner and select Settings from the dropdown menu.
Step 2: Click on Ads from the side panel.
Step 3: Click on Ad settings.
Step 4: Click on Ads based on data from partners and select not allowed from the drop-down menu.
Step 5: Click on Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere and select not allowed from the drop-down menu.
If you use Mozilla Firefox you can install Facebook container to isolate the data Facebook extracts from your browsing habits
Also read: What is RFID? How does it work? Types, applications and challenges
Turn off ad personalisation on your google account
Step 1: Place this URL https://myaccount.google.com/ in your web browser to open your account settings.
Step 2: Click on Data & personalization on the sidebar and look for Ad personalization and then click on Go to ad settings
Step 3: Click on the button to switch off Ad personalization
Also read: How to make your Netflix profile private?
Reset advertising ID and opt-out of Ad personalisation on your android device
- Go to Settings on your device.
- Click on Google
- Click on Ads
- Click on Reset advertising ID
- Click on Opt out of Ads Personalization
Also read: 9 ways to ensure your privacy is protected on Google Chrome
Tweak your web browser and browsing habits
How you use your browser to connect to the internet can significantly reduce the amount of tracking data you give to these companies. You can prevent companies from tracking your every move on the internet by using browser compartmentalisation. Installing ad blockers like Adblock or Ghostery can reduce the number of ads you see on a website. It also blocks trackers which are used by a lot of sites to reduce targetted ads.
Clearing the cookie data stored on your device and blocking third-party cookies can prevent ad companies from tracking your every move on the internet. Here is how you can block third-party cookies on Google Chrome and delete cookies when you close Chrome to prevent targetted ads. You can also consider using one of the Chrome alternatives or DuckDuckGo browser (also available as a Chrome plugin) to get rid of personalised advertisement.
Step 1: Click on the three dots on the top right corner and click on settings
Step 2: Click on privacy and security and look for site settings
Step 3: Under site settings click on Cookies and site data
Step 4: To clear cookies when you exit chrome click on Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome under site settings
Step 5: To block third party cookies click on Block third-party cookies
New data privacy laws like the GDPR are a step in the right direction, but people need to understand that till the time we think we have nothing to hide and don’t talk about privacy laws in our countries, nothing is stopping tech giants like Facebook and Google from harnessing your data for profits.
Due to the bulk collection technologies used by these tech giants, they have a large number of data points to identify each person and understand their behaviour using machine learning and advance analytics. So by giving them our data, we are providing them with a gateway to our thoughts, which is scary.
Also read: DuckDuckGo vs Google: Which search engine should you use?