The Internet knows your every move – this is why you should care
Post by Filip Truta, Hot For Security
In today’s digital economy, every company wants your data – from things like your email address and credit card number, right down to your deepest desires. And you willingly hand over this data on the promise that your experience will be tailored to your liking, that the ads you’ll see will be the ones you are interested in, that your apps and services will be conveniently synced across devices, that these services will be faster and more efficient, and so on. But that’s only half of the story.
Basic analytics VS non-essential Trackers
Web analytics are necessary for website owners to understand how customers interact with the platform, as well as for technical purposes, like optimizing the content for speed and usability. This is done using what is known as “essential trackers,” which are critical to the functionality of a website. However, because of their ability to collect vast amounts of data, web trackers are increasingly becoming tools for business and market research, greatly outweighing the simple act of measuring web traffic for optimization purposes.
Remember when those plane tickets just got more expensive after switching between websites? That’s a tracker designed to capitalize on your intention to book a vacation trip, not so much to improve your personal experience. This is what we call a “non-essential” tracker.
Here’s another example. Ever browsed for a pair of shoes and for the rest of that week those shoes followed you everywhere on the web? Those are advertising trackers at work. Tracking beacons are also non-essential trackers that take things one step further, gathering more data about you, including age, gender, location, preferences, the devices you own and the stuff you buy. All in all, the scales today are tipped towards data-mining with the purpose of knowing everything about you.
Is data mining legal?
Data mining sits at the intersection of machine learning and statistics with the purpose of discovering patterns in large data sets. Its end goal is to extract information from a data set and transform that information into actionable insights that advertisers can use to better target their audience. Websites everywhere do this, either in house or by outsourcing this effort. Data may be stripped of identity, but even anonymized data can (and often does) contain enough information to allow identification of individuals. And this raises important questions regarding privacy, legality, and ethics. For instance, pharma-chain Walgreens got hit with a lawsuit in 2011 for illegally selling prescription information to data mining companies without the customers’ consent.
The Internet knows you better than you think
The internet knows what videos you watch and often suggests the next one, and the next one, and the next one, to keep you browsing until you eventually see an ad that piques your interest. It knows where you went on vacation last year, which articles you like, and how you configure your computer settings. It knows your credit card information, medical history and favorite video games, and it has seen the contents of your phone. Companies store your every digital move, and they anticipate your next one. Then they sell this information to the highest bidder. Worse still, you’ve never met those companies. In the event of a breach, you’re left scrambling for answers as to how your personal information landed on the dark web for hackers to use against you in fraud schemes, or for extortion. Now, more than ever, we need to protect our identity online.
Introducing Bitdefender Anti-tracker
To combat unethical tracking of your digital whereabouts, the latest release of Bitdefender now includes a technology called Anti-tracker. Anti-tracker allows you to manage and block different types of trackers for a private browsing experience, including advertising, site analytics, customer interaction, social media, and even several “essential” Trackers that you might not want forking for your data. Mind you, Anti-tracker is not an ad blocker.
In addition to protecting your privacy, this nifty little add-on lets you keep data collection at a minimum when buying stuff online, safeguarding your browsing history, browser settings, cookies, online profiles, and credit card information. As a bonus, it helps speed up your page loading time.
Anti-tracker supports Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Mozilla Firefox and is rolling out today globally to all Bitdefender home customers on Windows computers. The extension will be installed but not activated by default, so you’ll need to flip that ON switch yourself. MacOS support is on the way. Enjoy your new Anti-tracker and let us know in the comments below how you like it. Stay safe out there!