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.
Turn on Do Not Track.
The efficacy of Do Not Track headers is questionable, to say the least. It's a noble idea, to set your browser to automatically announce to every visited page, that its user does not want to be tracked. Whether the sites and advertisers will listen is another matter, and it could take years for the FTC or others to start punishing those who blatantly ignore Do Not Track requests. Still, it doesn't hurt to turn the feature on – check your preferences in Chrome and Firefox, click the necessary boxes, and hope for the best.
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