You are being tracked. A vast network of businesses is actively collecting data about you – and not just you, in the general sense, but specifically you. Your age, gender, income range, location, medical issues, and social connections, everything that describes you is fair game for data brokers.
Companies like Acxiom and BlueKai have created an economy of online, automated surveillance, profiting from the collection and resale of user data to and from marketers, advertisers, and other brokers. The scale and reach of this industry can be disheartening, and avoiding its collective gaze increasingly difficult.
Still, there are ways of decreasing the volume of your data flowing to brokers and even regaining some of your privacy. Ranked from the least to the most involved, here are the services, strategies, and products that can throw the data trackers off your trail.
Search without suspicion.
Some of the most valuable, and widely-distributed tracking data comes from your search term history – it's an assumptive snapshot of your interests, your brand choices, and your aspirations. Couple those records of curiosity with a history of the resulting search results you actually clicked on, and your online behavioral profile practically builds itself. Withholding your search history means either switching to a more secure search engine, like DuckDuckGo, or installing Disconnect Search, which also prevents the sharing and storing terms and results, but currently only works with Chrome and Firefox.