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How your Online Activity is Tracked, Monitored, Stored and Used.

Internet / Technology

Jessie Clarke-Mcleod
April 11, 2018


How your Online Activity is Tracked, Monitored, Stored and Used.

Do you ever get the feeling that someone’s watching you even when you’re alone? Well when it comes to search engines depending on your account settings, that feeling is probably justified.

So many online users are unaware of how their activity online is tracked and used. Knowing more about how search engines store data on your profile can help ease the fear of the unknown and empower you to set limits on what you’re comfortable with having indexed and saved to your online profiles.

1.Targeted Advertising.

Ever googled “ Best cell phone deals” only to start seeing Samsung S9 and iPhone X adverts appearing everywhere online? It’s not a coincidence; Google collects data about you based on what you search. Search engines compile a profile which is valuable to marketers and businesses and which allows for targeted advertising.Targeted advertising wireless sonic telecoms

Targeted advertising can be explained using the following analogy. Imagine you were an apple seller. Mr Apple Seller tries to sell his apples to Mark, Stacey and Nicole. However, Nicole is allergic to apples, and Mark prefers bananas. Stacey loves apples and buys them every week. But Mr Apple Seller doesn’t know that just by looking at them. He has to pay to hand out flyers to all three of them and hope that they are looking to buy apples. But if there were a way for Mr Apple Seller to know the different preferences of these people a flyer could be handed only to Stacey. He would save money and increase his chance of getting a customer by advertising to the right person. Targeted advertising online follows this formula.

If you are logged onto your Gmail when you browse on google everything you search, like, follow and do online is tracked. It’s about making money. If a business can advertise their products to consumers online who are actively seeking them, they stand a better chance of making money than if they broadcasted to everyone.

2.Data Collection

When you sign up on Google+ and create a gmail account you give Google permission to compile this data about you and use it. Companies pay search engines to advertise their services  when you search a query online like, “Pest control in Cape Town”, that’s whytargeted advertising

sometimes you’ll see adverts

on top of your search results.

targeted advertising

If you are logged into your Gmail follow this link to the Google transparency tool called Dashboard. Google will show you all the data they have gathered on your profile and from where.

Adjust the data that Google has access to on your account. If you go to the “My Accounts” section on your Gmail and under the “Personal Privacy and Info tab” select “Manage your Google activity” you can limit and adjust the way that Google collects data on your profile

You can also customise the category of adverts targeted to your profile under the “Ad Settings” tab.

Platforms like Facebook track your engagement. If you like ”Coke-a-Cola” on Facebook then that automatically gets added to your list of interests. Facebook keeps track of brands you interact with and uses this information to suggest similar brands and services.  Facebook knows your location and which devices you use to access it. You can limit the extent to which Facebook advertises to you by adjusting your Ad Settings.

3. Social Media

Facebook is like an echo chamber. Everybody has a Facebook community made up of interlinked social circles. Your Facebook community may consist of people you went to school with or university or people with who you play a sport. Whatever the community often the people who make up those communities share similar thoughts, interests, views and opinions. Limiting your ability to be exposed to ideas that are different from your own. Facebook will reinforce your worldview by presenting you with content and ideas with which it knows you agree.

There is a lot that you can do to limit how your data is used and collected. Everybody is different. Some may find targeted advertising intrusive; others may feel comfortable receiving adverts tailored to their interests. Whatever your prerogative, knowing how your data is used and shared is essential.

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By Jessie Clarke-McLeod

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