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How to know if you’re being watched online?

How to know if you're being watched online?
Have you ever spotted those annoying targeted ads following you on every website you open? Was your web camera switched on when nobody touched it? Do you agree with cookies to get access to one or another platform? Though it sounds funny if you agreed at least with one of these questions, you are undoubtedly spied. Each of us has heard about the lack of privacy on the Internet, but only a few people realize what volume of information is gathered in reality. Moreover, not each of us understands the possible consequences of this spying and the fact that it may be harmful to people who do not prevent it. If you have come to the conclusion that it is time to stop this illegal tracking and ask how to know if you’re being watched online, you should continue reading this article.

Look: here you will find out who watches people and with what purpose as well as learn how to protect yourself from being tracked all the time.

Table of Contents

Who can watch you

Active Internet users have asked themselves at least once ‘Am I being tracked on the internet?’. The reason for that is the many unpredictable situations they face when they browse different websites. The most frequent example spotted almost by everyone is a strange coincidence of the query you have searched for and ads that pop up in some time and follow you everywhere. However, many users will also agree to have received strange emails and gift cards, accepted cookies on a variety of platforms, used GPS navigation, spent more traffic than they personally used to, switched off the webcam that was surely off a minute ago, etc. Are you among these guys? These are distinctive features of web tracking and almost each of us suffers from it. The first question that comes across our minds, in this case, is who does that? To tell the truth, the list can be quite long.

  1. Search engines, mailboxes, and social media

    Almost every web service tracks user activity and stores it. The main reason why it happens is really trivial – money. All the user preferences and some personal data are sold to third parties who take advantage of it and convert these people into leads.

  2. Advertisers

    To make ads more targeted and attract the right audience, advertising companies never neglect to gather and even purchase a certain kind of online data.

  3. Different e-commerce companies and online retailers

    Aiming at increasing sales and generating more leads many companies do track you on a daily basis.

  4. Federal government

    The US government has reported using the PRISM program to track the online activity of over 1 million users. However, it is only a drop in the ocean when it comes to the number of governments and organizations doing the same too. You may approve of this activity by the desire to determine and catch criminals and terrorists, but what about your personal letters and messages? There is hardly anyone wishing to share them with anyone.

  5. Hackers and other criminals

    A certain number of people use the Internet as a source of illegal income, fraudulent activity, or making fun of others. There are people who steal money from digital exchanges, wallets following the activity of users or those who interfere with the personal lives of other people spying through the web camera or in any other way.

These are only some of the examples of people, companies, and organizations to collect other user data, but in fact, every person can be a spy and is not insured against being tracked by others too.

What information do they collect

Key in a hand

People who are not aware of the way how all this tracking system works may mistakenly think that there is nothing significant in the information collected about them. However, some of this information can lead not only to money losses but even nervous breakdowns like when they share the details of your personal life. Of course, different services and people gather different data, but the whole spectrum of information to be collected is quite extensive.

It includes:

  1. IP address
    It is saved by the website to determine the location of the device which is used for accessing the website.
  2. Places you visit
    If you enable GPS or just use Google on your mobile device, it follows your route incessantly and knows all the places you visit throughout the day. There is even a function to rate the places visited which is true evidence of tracking.
  3. Cookies
    Cookies are collected by websites with three main purposes: to guarantee a correct website functioning, to personalize a website to the user preferences, and to collect information about a user visit.
  4. Queries and email content
    All the information you search in the engine is stored by a web browser (unless it is a private one) and used for making targeting ads. Moreover, even if you write an email on a certain topic, be ready to see it in the ads too.
  5. Likes
    It is not a secret that billions of people are active social media users. They express their attitude to certain posts clicking the ‘Like’ button. If a person visits any other website being logged in the social media platform and presses this button there or even not, this information is immediately delivered to the social platform and is associated with your profile.
  6. Personal information
    People who make purchases or participate in online surveys enter their real names, addresses, emails and other information which can create a full image of this person and be used not for their benefit.
  7. Payment information
    When you pay for any services using a credit card, e-wallet, or crypto wallet, this information is also stored and can be stolen with the goal to get your funds in an illegal way.
  8. Personal life
    Any information you store on your computer or mobile device, as well as video records of your routine life, can be easily copied from your device using special spy software. If you open a strange email or gift card sent to you, another person can get access to all the data and even switch on your web camera remotely to follow you.

In fact, tracking allows getting different information about the person watched and you never know when this data will make a negative impact on your life.

What to do if you are being tracked

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker

Sometimes it is impossible to understand that you are tracked, but in most cases, there are certain signs that say about being spied. Every person would like to learn how to know if your IP address is being monitored or you are watched in any other way. There several hints to consider:

  1. Ads you see coincide with your queries, topics of interests, the content of messages, etc.
  2. You are offered to rank certain places you visit
  3. Files on your device are lost or change their location
  4. Your web camera is switched on even if you haven’t done that
  5. You have opened a suspicious email or downloaded malicious software
  6. You agree to share your cookies
  7. Notifications about your activity (in the apps or websites) you have not ever performed
  8. The total amount of data usage is much higher than you usually used to have
  9. Being signed up for loyalty cards and other programs
  10. Your location and native language are determined by the browser and website automatically

These are the most popular things to notice and understand that your privacy is gone. However, when you see the evidence of being tracked, there is the only question to ask: what to do?

Naturally, you should undertake certain steps in this case:

By doing so you will be able to minimize the chances of being tracked. However, it is not a full list of must-do tasks if you do want to feel privacy. Keep on reading to learn how to avoid being tracked on the internet forever.

How to avoid being tracked

When you find out that there is someone to follow every step of yours or someone you know, it is a natural desire to find out how to avoid being tracked online. However, since the number of spying methods is very extensive, it is not enough to follow one or two of the recommendations given by experts. It should be a complex work to correct previous mistakes and prevent the appearance of new ones. What exactly should you do?

Browser history

You will agree that 85% of people use Google Search, do it is not surprising that the most common tracking method is emails and IP addresses. When you enter a query and open any of the results offered your browser saves this activity in the history and you can easily look through the websites opened recently. Moreover, you usually try to agree with all the terms and conditions offered to you in the form of cookies to get full access to the website faster. As a result, these small pieces called cookies start tracking all your online activity.

Sometimes you even enjoy the fact that cookies exist since they hint you at the websites that were already visited as well as save your usernames and passwords on the platforms making access there much faster and easier. It means that these are cookies that always help you to be logged in and followed by other companies. The last ones analyze your online behavior and find the best ways to engage with you offering in the ads the things you really need.

It means that the history of your browser stores much personal information about you and is your Achilles’ heel. No matter what browser you use: Chrome or Opera, Firefox or Internet Explorer, if it is not a private one, its history should be cleaned out on a regular basis. There are even special tools that can do that for you as well as help you to memorize all your passwords and usernames without sharing them with others.

Strong and specific passwords

Password

It is not a secret that the Internet can be hardly called a safe environment. There are many individuals who look for a way how to steal money and other valuable information from other users and use special software and techniques that help to achieve this goal. Probably, everyone has heard of tools that can guess username and passwords trying millions of them, so it is very important to pay attention to the strength and uniqueness of the passwords used.

Nobody is protected against scam, cheating, fraud, so it is important to avoid popular passwords and try to make them complex and unique. Moreover, you should never share your passwords with others and keep them far from the reach of kids, relatives, friends, etc. Experts advise keeping this information on a USB in the key document to prevent unsanctioned access to it. If you forget any password and receive a letter to your email address with it, it is better to change it after this situation too. If passwords are not your strong feature, use special tools that will store them for you in the utmost security. One of the most popular ones is LastPass.

Anonymous browsers

Do you use Google Chrome for search? Almost 80% of people would admit doing that without a hint of hesitation. Is there anything wrong with that? Nothing if you do not care about your privacy. Google gathers a great deal of information about you each time you use it for any purpose and many people do not mind being watched all the time.

However, if your personal security and privacy do matter to you, it is necessary to change a browser you got used to. Nowadays, when anonymity is considered to be of utmost importance, there are a dozen or more so-called private browsers that guarantee anonymity to their users. Such search engines never keep the record of the search history or delete it immediately when a user leaves the platform. Moreover, some browsers do not determine the IP address of the device and avoid offering cookies for the user to accept. They claim not to store any information about queries made and it prevents third parties from obtaining it. Moreover, some of them also use the Google Search engine to produce the results but at the same time, they keep your personal data secure too.

DuckDuckGo home page

If you decide to use such a browser as Tor or DuckDuckGo, avoid installing any plugins or extensions since they can leave you without privacy too. It is enough to get used to making searches in this way and the level of your anonymity will be much higher.

Encrypt your messages

Encrypted

One of the ways how not to be tracked on the internet is to encrypt messages you are sending. One of the ways to do that is to use GNU Privacy Guard. It will add unreadability and privacy if you set up a passphrase and a response to the secret question. The tool will also ask you to generate both public and private keys to guarantee only your access and safety. A person who decides to send you a message or file will need to encrypt it using a public key of yours while a user will need to decrypt it to get full access to it. It is important to remember that a public key can be shared with everyone you wish, while a private key must be kept in secret.

Do not post personal data

Unfortunately, many Internet users make one great mistake when they share any details of their personal data. In this case, there is no sense to look for how to prevent being tracked on the Internet since this data serves as a magnet for criminals. They can take information from your social media profiles, get through to your mobile device and apps, as well as use any other data you share online. It is a widely known fact that you should not send numbers of credit and debit cards. Moreover, it is forbidden to take photos of these cards that show CVV code and other details. Photos of a passport and other documents must be handed and avoid sending them using any online service. If you follow these simple pieces of advice, your chances to be tracked will be much lower and you can be confident in your security too.
There is a viewpoint that BitCoin payments are considered safer and it is better to use cryptocurrency to pay online.

However, sharing your walls address online is the same dangerous. Many experts agree that all the personal data you share online and BitCoin transactions made can be connected, and it may lead to the loss of funds too. The only conclusion to be made is to be careful with sharing any personal data and prefer secure payment methods that minimize the chances of being traced.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, our passion for the Internet has led to the fact that each of us can be spied. Only now people start thinking about their online security when the number of web crimes and hacker attacks has beaten all the anti-ratings. However, there is good news in this situation since now the question of how to avoid being watched interests more people. They become focused on their security and consider it very important in the use of online services. This number of methods how to spot that you might be tracked and how to avoid being watched can help everyone to enhance the level of online safety and feel more confident as an Internet user.

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