In this day and age, most of us are aware that what we do online is rarely private. But did you know the extent to which companies are harvesting your data while you browse? According to recent research, more than 75% of all websites now feature ad trackers that monitor your activity.
The survey, conducted jointly by browser Cliqz and security extension Ghostery, examined over 144 million web pages across more than a dozen countries.
They were looking for third-party trackers – and they found them in alarming amounts.
Normally, websites use tracking techniques to keep tabs on the browsing habits of visitors. However, third-party tracking happens when external companies with no connection to the site itself want to get in on the action.
By placing their own trackers in different locations around the web, they are able to build up a scarily accurate picture of individual users.
As the research by Cliqz and Ghostery reveals, these monitoring techniques have now spread across the internet at an alarming rate.
In fact, 77.4% of the websites surveyed had at least one third-party tracker.
What’s more, a significant minority – 16.2% – featured 10 or more, while 43.6% had between two and nine. Finally, 17.6% were found to have just one third-party tracker.
But who is collecting this data? Google is the biggest culprit, with trackers from the company’s Analytics service cropping up on 46.4% of the websites studied.
Additionally, trackers related to other services such as DoubleClick and AdSense also occurred regularly across the sampled sites.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook was also found to be a big user, with 21.9% of the websites featuring trackers from its Facebook Connect service.
And according to some industry insiders, the prevalence of web monitoring could be contributing to the current spike in the amount of people using ad blockers when browsing online – with some 30% of US users predicted to install them in 2018.
So what can you do if you don’t want companies like Google and Facebook spying on your activity online?
If you don’t like the idea of seeing the same adverts over and over again – or if you simply want to keep your browsing away from prying eyes – a VPN is the best solution.