The internet wouldn’t be the same if websites didn’t track us. We’d probably spend a lot more on impulse buys if we didn’t have persistent shopping carts. And no one wants to have to log into Facebook every time they want to share an article. Websites have many ways of tracking users. You’re probably familiar with cookies, but cookies are just one tracking method. Websites can also track users through many other mechanisms, including unique identifiers in cached content, web storage, and more. There are also sneakier means, such as browser fingerprinting, which don’t rely on a website storing data on your device.
Why do websites want to track your activities? Generally, it’s to show you ads for products or services you might be interested in. Ad networks inject content into many of the sites you visit. They track the pages you’ve visited and then show you ads related to content you’ve looked at on those pages.
How can you stop websites from tracking your activity? The only foolproof solution is to stop using the internet. But let’s be more realistic. A practical (albeit not 100% effective) solution is to open a private browsing window (e.g., Incognito window in Chrome, Private window in Firefox, InPrivate window in Edge). Conduct any browsing that you don’t want tracked in such windows. It’s important to never sign into any websites in private windows and to close them periodically to wipe data that can be used to track you from websites you visited in these private windows.