Beware of Cross-Device Tracking

Advertisers use many methods of identifying and tracking consumers so that they can serve up ads aimed at generating more sales. Cross-device tracking is one of these methods used to target customers and force ads onto their devices. Being aware about how this is done is a big step towards staying safe, and having a VPN can add a layer of tight security to your daily surfing.

Too Much Tracking

It used to be easy for advertisers to track consumers down because they used the same computers to do their online shopping and browsing. We own so many Internet-enabled devices these days, however, that advertisers need to be more clever at identifying those of us who have shopped for this or that. They also need to know how to deliver their ads to the different device types. We therefore now have cross-device tracking, which helps them keep everything up to date and running smoothly. So we are being tracked 24/7 these days, on potentially every device that we use to connect to the Internet.

The details of our identities and product preferences have been coveted by anyone with something to sell since forever. They need this to pitch us more persuasive arguments for why we should purchase what they have to offer. Advertising was born out of this system, and marketers have taken over. It was done by word of mouth for many years, but the Internet had made it possible for these guys to gather much more information on just about anyone who goes online. This means that there is already a staggering amount of data floating around on Internet users, even those who have never actually bought anything online. Advertisers target potentials just as much as they target shoppers.

Cookies were a favorite method of tracking the behavior of Internet users for a long time, until security researchers discovered their vulnerabilities and threats to our privacy. When people discovered the vast stores of data that companies had collected about them, many started to use privacy tools. When they learned about how cookies could be manipulated to spread malware, they started taking online security more seriously. This adversely affected advertisers because many of the tools being used would block cookies, their means of gathering the information that was their bread and butter. Since advertising is such a lucrative business, there is no way that they are just going to give up. And the Internet is too sweet a honeypot to leave unmined. They need to keep pushing those ads wherever and whenever they can so that they can get more people to buy more things so that companies will keep paying them to work their magic.

Why Cross-Device Tracking is Bad

Cross-device tracking is much better than traditional surveys or tracking cookies. This method is able to get a lot more data about us and our surfing habits than both those methods combined. When people used different devices depending on their locations or borrowed devices when they did not own any, the confusion created was somehow enough to fool advertisers. They were unable to create very accurate profiles of consumers because they could not correctly identify who was using what device. Now, they can build precise reports on each consumer because they have data correlated across multiple devices.

Just as with cookies before privacy concerns were raised, companies do not have to inform users that they are monitoring and gathering data from these users’ devices. Most people are still unaware of cross-device tracking and what it can do, so they are left open to all companies that employ this system to ensure that they are serving up as many targeted ads as they can. We are being accurately profiled without our knowledge or consent, and the information is being used to devise ways of getting to our psyches so that we will spend money that we probably don’t even have.

Cross-device tracking directly uploads a bunch of data onto servers that are maintained by the advertisers who use the method. Users are therefore unable to prevent data from being taken by traditional means such as tweaking their browser privacy settings or using private browsers. The method is so new that even the Federal Trade Commission does not yet understand how it works. All they know is that it does pose a threat to our right to privacy because it is scooping up tons of consumer data round the clock. The FTC is fully aware that something needs to be done about this, and they are set to have a conference about this new tracker in mid November. Meantime, they have made public their determination to make sure that consumers are continually protected against new trends such as this. Through mid October, they will be taking in comments from the public to learn more about cross-device tracking, what threats is poses, and if there are any remarkable benefits to consumers at all.

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