Shaking off the silent snoops

Silent snoops online

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Do you ever feel snooped on when you navigate your way through cyber space?

These so called 3rd party websites may be running around silently collecting your web searches.  We have talked about cookies and private browsing but now we learn from WBTV's cyber expert, Theresa Payton, that many of these sites are giving up the cookies and trying out new tactics.

Her advice follows:

What happens when you visit a site?

  1. When you visit a site, it sends the web address.  But it may also request additional instructions to wake up 3rd party websites.
  2. Once the 3rd party wakes up, it may track your visit via your searches and clicks or it may use a cookie; regardless of the method, you pretty much needed a tech degree to know who was watching
  3. It may do helpful things such as set up widgets for you so you can share what you are seeing on your social networks or via email
  4. But there might be unintended consequences from the minor annoyance of ending up someplace on the web you don't want to be to because the 3rd party served up and ad that you clicked on to invasions of your privacy where behavioral data is collected and stored and used for other purposes of marketing, building a risk profile or other purposes you might not be made aware of

What can you do about it – there is no foolproof way to stop the trackers but you can be more savvy about it

Quick Tip:

Before you turn on new features or add apps, always read the privacy and security settings to make sure you understand how the feature will work.

Free and Easy to do:

  1. Turn cookies off – you can keep this turned on for important sites like your online banking; for some sites, without the cookies, the pages may not load with your preferences
  2. Choose "private browsing"  - this will not store your session searches and information but you can still be tracked
  3. For Firefox users, there is a new add on called "Lightbeam" that will alert you as to whether or not 3rd party sites are tracking you when you visit your favorite news, shopping or other sites.
  4. Flag your browser for "do not track" – not all websites are honoring that but there is a huge push for do not track laws or best practices

Free or Fee Based Services

There are new apps that can help you as well.

  • Abine has some free products and some fee based products that can help.  "MaskMe" is free and gives your more private browsing.  "DeleteMe" is an annual subscription that will scrub you from 3rd party sites.  One new product is called "DoNotTrackPlus" that you may find useful in stopping some 3rd party services
  • A former Google developer has developed an app called "Disconnect" which can't stop the tracking but it can help block the 3rd party services from following you around beyond the site that initiated them.
  • Safe Shepherd also offers services to remove your personal information from the internet.

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