When you are browsing the internet, the sites you are visiting are trying to collect every piece of information they possibly can about you. Third party companies want to know as much information about the browsing habits of individuals as possible. This includes your search history, the sites you visit, the products you buy, your location, your interests and other personal information. Almost every website tracks and records your activity at some level and some sites and services sell your data to other companies, which is often allowed by their terms of service. These companies could be advertising companies, online marketing, market research companies, analytics services, etc.
If you’re getting a service for free, you’re not a customer, you are the product.
This information can be put to a number of uses such as helping big companies know how to more effectively market to consumers, or to present personalised advertising to you. For example, if you express an interest in cheese burgers and you might be shown McDonald’s advertising or if you like sneakers you’ll get Nike.
This tracking is accomplished using a number of technologies and code built into the websites that you visit.
Cookies, not the delicious baked variety, are a small piece of data stored on your computer than can be used to track your activity and personal information on the internet. The way it works is when you access a website for the first time a cookie is stored on your computer, you then continue to browse the internet, all the while the cookies can be storing your browsing information, and when you return to the website that originally created the cookie it is sent back with the data it has stored in between visits. Cookies do have completely legitimate uses, such as when you visit Facebook and the site remembers you are already logged in. Cookies can also not install viruses or malware on to your computer, but they can be used to compile long term records of your browsing history and your form content entries, such as phone numbers, addresses and even credit card numbers.
“Super Cookies” are just that. Although this is just a name given to a few different types of new software like Evercookie which have been specifically designed in order to make it hard to delete tracking cookies from your computer. This means that if you ever use any of the standard tools available within your browsers to attempt to delete cookies, they may not be deleted at all.
Evercookie accomplishes this by storing the cookie data in several types of storage mechanisms that are available on the local browser. Additionally, if Evercookie has found the user has removed any of the types of cookies in question, it recreates them using each mechanism available.
There are indications that many known websites such as Spotify have begun using EverCookies.
The good news is that there are a couple of browser add-ons you can use to stop websites tracking you and displaying advertising material to you.
Adblock Plus and uBlock Origin
Adblock Plus is a browser extension you can install into any of your web browsers which will detect instances of advertising in the code on a web page as your browser loads it and will remove the advertising before it is ever presented to you. For an example when used on Facebook you can see the results below.
Do Not Track Me (now Blur)
Do Not Track Me is a tracker blocker extension available for Chrome and Firefox. This extension allows you to detect when websites are trying to track you and tells you what they are trying to track. It can then block the trackers, delete tracking cookies that have been placed on your computer and can also send dummy data to the trackers when they are trying to gather personal information like email addresses.