We’re being tracked everywhere online. Literally everything we do on the Internet is stored, analyzed, and disclosed to others via tracking technologies. Companies leverage tracking software and other methods to understand our online habits better and target us with personalized ads. They want to know what websites we visit, the products we buy, and the things we share with friends. As smartphones and other Internet-connected devices become more widespread, the amount of data we produce every day is staggering. We’re more vulnerable to marketing practices with more data available than ever.
- Advertising Is the Main Driver Behind Tracking
- How Is Ad Tracking Harming Us?
- Ad Tracking Technologies Are Becoming More Capable Every Day
- Blocking Ad Tracking Helps Take Back Some Control
Advertising Is the Main Driver Behind Tracking
We’ve all had the experience of looking for something online and, then, having ads for the same product or service following us around incessantly. It isn’t very pleasant. Being shown ads that market products or services reflecting your specific interests might sound convenient, but it’s not. Online ads are intrusive, flashy, and loud. Advertising itself isn’t the issue. It’s the way ads are shown to the user that can be problematic. Businesses should find a balance between ads and user experience. The right ad is offered the right way makes all the difference. Showing ads without filters completely disregards the user experience.
How Is Ad Tracking Harming Us?
Ad Tracking Is an Invasion of Privacy
Not all ads are bad. Nonetheless, advertising has gone too far. Our online movements are often collected by data brokers who sell the information to the highest bidder. The identifiable information that they collect is extensive, comprising everything from birthdays to job titles. Google, Facebook, and other tech companies are hungry for fresh data. Maybe so, but that doesn’t give them the right to spy on us. Personal data is being collected to support targeted ads in a way that violates our online privacy. Targeted ads have become a nightmare. Online targeted advertisements appear everywhere. It seems like there’s no escape.
There’s Potential for Discrimination in Online Targeted Advertising
As sales are the primary source of revenue, websites and apps allow for the installation of ad trackers. Ad tracking mainly benefits those watching us. Clicks, impressions, conversions, and so on, are used to set up more profitable campaigns. Advertisers can serve us ads based on our geographical location and viewing habits by tracking us. As online consumers, we’re isolated because the information we see is limited to what is targeted at us. Targeted ads can contribute to discrimination if employment, housing, and credit ads are based on gender, age, marital status, or ZIP code.
Malicious Code Can Be Delivered Through Legitimate Ads
Numerous ads are submitted to advertising networks on a daily basis, including those that malicious actors create. More precisely, fraudsters deliver malicious ads that can compromise our devices even without a click. Bad ads manage to get through, even on reputable platforms. Malvertising is designed to trick people into giving up personal information, notably financial information. Malicious ads can install viruses and other malicious software on our devices, so we don’t even know they’re there. The malware keeps track of keystrokes and saves information locally. This kind of software is particularly dangerous because it operates in the background.
Ad Tracking Technologies Are Becoming More Capable Every Day
There are many types of ad trackers, as follows:
Cookies are bits of data that are passed between two computer programs. What they do is record online activity and save it in the browser. A cookie provides details of what a visitor has done on a website, like the pages they’ve viewed, the content of their shopping carts, and so forth. Cookies can follow a user across multiple sites or services and continue to collect data. The law requires users’ informed consent before storing or accessing the information on their devices. This information can be used by third parties such as businesses and government agencies.
URL tracking is the process by which an identifier is added to an URL to identify the best-performing marketing channels and figure out what content is responsible for the referral traffic or sales. URL trackers are like cookies, and the only difference is that they’re in plain view, running along the browser’s address bar. Companies can spy on our online activity across the Web, which results in detailed data profiles.
Tracking pixels are tiny snippets of code that enable advertisers to collect information about visitors on a site. The pixel data is sent directly to the company’s server. This information includes how users interact and respond to ads, email campaigns, and the site overall. It’s not possible to block tracking pixels, as is the case with pixels. Some browser extensions will obstruct the tracking pixels by alerting you what emails contain trackers. The unrestricted usage of tracking pixels is a threat to privacy and security.
Blocking Ad Tracking Helps Take Back Some Control
Frustration about invasive advertising is mounting. People want to be in control of web browsing and will take the necessary steps to block ad tracking. To stop intrusive ads and trackers that secretly track online behavior, many individuals resort to private browsing and ad blockers. While there’s no denying the effectiveness of these ad-blocking techniques, it would be best to use a VPN. Your online activity becomes anonymous once you connect to a VPN. A reliable app makes it possible to change the server through which you connect to the Internet. No one can identify you or build a profile.
All in all, it’s okay to block ads. Even if advertising is the dominant business model on the Internet, it won’t collapse if more people start blocking intrusive ads. VPNs are one of the very few tools that we have to push back against the logic that has seized the Web. If more of us used ad blocking techniques, perhaps we wouldn’t have to settle for just good ads. In the battle for consumer attention, content marketers should strive for a healthy Internet for all. The Internet can survive without ads.