Happy young woman sitting on sofa and using digital tablet. Happy young student with eyeglasses watching a movie on tablet. Female student studying on tablet at home. (iStock)
We all know that prickling feeling when we see an ad online or on our phone for something we just talked about with a friend.
Big Tech companies say they’re not listening to us and feeding ads for things they hear. I say you can never be too safe. Tap or click for a simple trick to block the microphone on your computer or phone.
Speaking of simple, this quick test tells you how much information your browser is leaking. Tap or click to test yours. Don’t like the results? It’s time to pick a new browser.
If you’re sick of handing your private info to advertisers, here are a few ways you can shut them out in just a few clicks.
How do advertisers decide what to show you?
Your internet behavior dictates the ads you see. Through a process called retargeting, your data is crunched to give companies a picture of your online behavior. This list includes sites you visit, products you add to your cart, and ads you click.
Algorithms analyze your visits over time. One method to help stop your activity from being tracked by advertisers, and other nefarious entities, is to block or limit third-party cookies in your browser.
RELATED: Here’s what happens when someone snoops on your phone using stalkerware
How to block cookies in your browser
To block cookies in Google Chrome, simply click the three-dot menu in the upper right corner and choose Settings. Scroll down and tap Advanced, then scroll to Privacy and security and click Site settings. Tap on the Cookies and site data option and enable Block third-party cookies.
For Microsoft Edge, select the three-dot menu in the upper top right corner, then choose Settings > Site permissions > Cookies and site data.
In Mozilla Firefox, tap on the three-line menu in the top right corner, then click on Settings. Choose Privacy and Security, then click on the Custom option and check Cookies. Select All third-party cookies.
For Safari, choose Preferences > Privacy. From there you can select Block all cookies or choose an option like Prevent cross-site tracking.
There’s a common misconception that incognito mode hides what you browse from Google, your internet service provider, your work, and everything else. It doesn’t. But it does remove most cookies collected when you load a webpage.
To use Incognito Mode in both Chrome and Firefox, tap the menu (three-dot or line, respectively, on the top right corner of the browser), then New Incognito Window.
To browse in private using Edge, click on the three-dot menu and choose New InPrivate window.
In Safari, click File > New Private Window.
Incognito mode isn’t a fix-all, but it does have some practical uses. Tap or click here for six of my favorites.
Choose a security-first option
Ditching your current search engine can also limit advertisers from tracking you. One option is DuckDuckGo. It allows you to search the internet and protects your privacy. There’s no tracking, collecting, and sharing of your personal information.
The problem: The search results you get with DuckDuckGo aren’t the best.
Your browsers could be telling advertisers what you do online.
Tap or click for a list of search engines that respect your privacy.
Dive into your settings
Double-check your security and privacy settings in accounts such as Facebook or Google to help stop advertisers from tracking you. Be sure to check settings that include permissions, cookies, and site data.
With these settings, you can control what info websites can use and what content they show you. However, there is no guarantee you will save yourself from being tracked by all advertisers.
Tap or click to stop Facebook from passing everything you do to the highest bidder.
Remove your info from data broker sites
You’ve seen these creepy sites. They sell all kinds of information on consumers, like you, to people and businesses willing to pay.
The sheer amount of data collected will make your skin crawl. It includes:
NameAddressIncomeWebsites you visitWhom you connect with online
Tap or click for methods to remove your info from three popular sites.
Turn on a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is one of the best methods for shutting out annoying advertisers. VPNs increase your privacy and security by encrypting your data, concealing your online activities, and manipulating your IP address to make it appear information is coming from a different location.
Together, these steps prevent retargeting as advertisers can’t tell where your internet activity is coming from, providing you with the anonymity you deserve.
Online advertisers may know more about you than you want them to.
Bonus Tip: Essential tech cleanups to do before 2022
Is your digital life in need of a little TLC? In this fun podcast, you’ll learn a few cleaning secrets, along with simple methods of sorting the clutter, clearing out junk and freeing up space on your devices. Looks like you just found your new holiday project.
Check out my podcast «Kim Komando Explains» on Apple, Google Podcasts, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, «Komando.»
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television, or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters, and more, visit her website at Komando.com.