This weekend I shopped online, specifically Amazon, in a vain attempt to find just the right surge protector for the home office. My methodology is simple. Find some I like, add them to the cart, come back later and make a decision on which to order.
Over the course of the week nearly every website I visited had advertising about surge protectors and related electronic goodies. How did those advertisers, Google in many cases, know I was looking for surge protectors? I was tracked, stalked, and preyed upon with an incessant barrage of messages which may not go away even if I make a purchase. Yes, the browser has become a dangerous tracking app.
Block And Be Happy
All of this online tracking of your browsing behavior has become something of an artful science. Search for something over there, and get ads about the same thing the next time you use the browser. Such finite tracking might benefit advertisers and online retailers, and they might tell you that such tracking improves your ability to gain information, but the reality is you’re being influenced in ways you may not want.
For example, thanks to Google’s search engine, and Google’s ubiquitous ads and nearly as ubiquitous Analytics scripts, visitors to most websites are tracked as to the content they read, videos they view, music listened to, searches made, as well as browser and computer type. All that data is collected, sliced, diced, Julienned, and made available to advertisers and other ad networks so they can flip ads into your face that kinda sorta mostly maybe are relevant to your online profile.
Wait. What? We have an online profile?
Yes. It may not be a folder of your personal viewing history, purchasing history, home and work location, height, weight, or health condition data encrypted and stored on Google’s servers, but it’s out there and whatever you do while online gets recorded and coagulated in such a way that the advertising powers that be can attempt to influence you when you come back online because they know where you’ve been, what you did, what you like, and what you might want to buy if the incentive is sufficient.
That explains the proliferation of browser ad blockers such as Ad Block Plus and Ghostery that Mac users have installed to prevent or reduce the tracking. The end results may not be perfect, but with fewer advertisements that display on each page, those blocked website pages load faster and take up far less bandwidth.
The end result with that approach is an improved reading experience that benefits you, the reader; you get much faster website page loads, use less bandwidth, and don’t have to sort through a clutter trap of non-relevant ads. Advertisers get a targeted readership with less visual competition. Win, win, win.
All of this came about because the browser, thanks to the greed of Google and similar undisciplined advertising networks which spawned an enormous industry of tracking mechanisms aimed at you, became a dangerous tracking app.