If you’ve ever seen ads following you around online showing something you recently searched for, you’ve seen the power of cookies.
“A cookie is a little piece of information on your computer that can follow you from site to site,” explained Alex Kubiak, general manager of Startpage.com, a privacy-centric search engine.
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The sneaky ones are called “third-party cookies.” These are on about every website you visit watch what we search for, what we buy, news articles we read and the sites we visit. All this to help build a profile marketers can use to sell targeted online ads to us.
“Every website you visit, every search that you do is aggregated together by data brokers and third-party cookies,” explained Kubiak.
So, just by visiting one website, you might inadvertently be sharing your browsing history with lots of other websites, too.
“Right now, it’s not often to do anything malicious, it’s to drive sales,” explained Kubiak.
The good news is that you can block these third-party cookies and win back at least some of your privacy.
If you use Chrome, there is a simple new way to turn them off.
- Click the three little dots in the upper right-hand corner of Chrome, near your user profile picture.
- On the left-hand menu, select Privacy and Security
- Click Cookies and other site data
- Click the option for Block third party cookies.
That’s all! You’ve just reclaimed at least some of your privacy online.
So why not just choose the bigger option to block all cookies? I don’t recommend this since it would impact your overall experience on the internet and make it tough to stay logged into your favorite websites.
Alternatively, you can install an extension that can do this. Startpage makes one you can add to Chrome for free, but it will change your default search engine to Startpage results. You can always switch it back to Google in settings.
If you use Safari, you’re already protected. Safari blocks third-party cookies by default. There’s nothing extra you need to do.
Want to go further in your efforts to protect your personal browsing history online? You can switch to an entirely new web browser like Brave that says it will block ads, trackers and even has a VPN built in.
DuckDuckGo is like Startpage in that it promises not to track you while you surf the web.
Are the results as good as Google? Probably not, but if you’re most interested in your privacy, it could be worth the switch as these providers don’t require a login so they can’t use your information for various products and services across the web.