You’re reading this so you’re online. When you’re online you have no anonymity. That means it’s almost impossible to be anonymous while online, and it also means companies that track you continue to gather more information about you.
It is not just about grabbing your online browsing habits, either. From Google to Facebook, from Apple to Microsoft, and thousands of other entities and advertisers that track online users, information about you is being gathered, sifted, filtered, and used in ways most online users do not fully understand or appreciate.
What is so bad about being tracked?
Tracking is pervasive and difficult to avoid. Visit a website and your browser tracks your online history. The website often has advertising and most have analytics trackers to help gather information about visitors. Some of the information gathered is innocuous. For example, McSolo’s servers gather IP addresses which can help determine the number of visitors from various countries and which webpages are viewed.
After that, IP data quickly becomes useless, and very difficult to use to track down the visitor. Law enforcement agencies can gather IP address data for an investigation so I take the extra step of deleting the data every few days.
Other information can be gathered easily enough when you visit websites. Gmail, Google, various online retailers, Amazon, and even Apple gather information when you visit their websites, but the anonymity you want really does not exist.
Information gathering is only one step in the whole process of online tracking. In most cases, information– the data about online users– is bought and sold, sifted and filtered, and then attached to additional information about specific users. This process creates something of an online dossier of user details. Google, Facebook, Amazon and others gather and store such information which is used to provide more pertinent search engine results, more connections you are likely to like or follow, and more products you might be willing to purchase.
For most of us, online anonymity is a pipe dream. Even by anonymizing our online habits through a virtual private network (VPN) connection, those same data trackers can eventually put two and two together to know who is trying to be anonymous online.
Can you avoid such tracking? Stay offline. If you can’t do that, and most of us cannot, then be careful where you visit and what you do online. A VPN helps, but does nothing to prevent Amazon from knowing your search and purchase habits, and does nothing to prevent you from being followed by Google, and certainly Facebook cares little about how you get on the internet, VPN not withstanding.
It’s a jungle out there so tread carefully.