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.
Use a secure browser.
Internet Explorer has its problems, but it excels in one relatively surprising way – it offers the most substantive anti-tracking feature of any major browser. Despite Microsoft's significant revenue stream from targeted ads, the company's flagship browser features something called Tracking Protection, a suite of features that goes far beyond Do Not Track headers, actively blocking many (though not all, of course) efforts to leech personal data from Web surfers. This is an opt-in process, though, meaning another trip through your preferences.