Neighbourhood Technology Desk/Avi Arya: Though Facebook gets the attention because of a recent privacy gaffe, the social network is far from alone in collecting massive amounts of data on you to help marketers sell you stuff.
Here are some examples of online tracking:
- Location services:Many apps need your location to work. Mapping apps, for instance, can’t tell you when to turn without knowing where you are. Video services typically have rights only in certain countries and need to verify your location. But location can be used for much more. Google, for instance, keeps a fairly detailed account of your whereabouts through a feature called Timeline.
- Combating this: You can turn off location services in the phone’s settings, though for apps to work property, it’s better to turn them off for specific services that don’t really need them. As for Timeline, you can pause or delete location history in Google settings.
- Signing in:Signing into an online account gives services a sure-fire way of tracking you. Facebook won’t work at all without an account; Google merely works better with one. And you’ll generally need an account with any service that charges you, although sometimes you can sign in with your Facebook or Google ID instead.
- Combating this: Resist creating an account or signing whenever you can such as when you’re merely browsing rather than buying. Avoid using Facebook or Google IDs whenever possible, as those companies could then track you. You can also use a different email address for each account to frustrate efforts to connect you across services, although it can be a major pain.
- IP address:The Internet Protocol address lists where your phone or computer lives on the internet; it’s how you get messages and load websites. But IP addresses can also help companies remember who you are and link the various devices you use, since most homes use a single IP address for the whole network. Databases can also map IP addresses to physical locations.
- Combating this: You can mask your IP address by using a secure intermediary. VPN services, common in corporate settings, will route your traffic through a separate IP address; a secure web browser called Tor automatically sends traffic through multiple third parties. You still need to avoid signing in.