How do websites track your every step on the internet?
As you read the words that begin this text, you are probably being tracked. And if you give up or go to the end, and go ahead to see what’s going on in your favorite social network, you will also be being monitored. And here, we are not even talking about government espionage or any hacker who infected your computer or cell phone. On the contrary, everything that is being delivered is done willingly, no matter how much the user himself does not imagine it.
According to data, Google is able to track about 80% of all the websites you access on the Internet through its most diverse services. The same goes for Facebook, which with tools used by developers and webmasters, are also able to extend knowledge about their users beyond their own limits. But how exactly does it all work?
The most basic form of online tracking is through cookies, tiny files that are installed on your hard drive and can be defined more or less as an identification card. It is there that information is stored, such as the language of the country you are in, which pages you have accessed or the time you spent on a particular website, for example.
When you speak in this way, it seems completely peaceful, right? Although this type of use raises concerns about privacy and under the eyes of who may be the information traveling between your computer and the network, for most people, none of this matters as long as the use of the web is easier.
I know who you are. Buy now.
Have you noticed that when you go to a shopping site and check a product, that advertisements about it start appearing on the rest of the internet? Wow, as the chain is smart, I could think about it at first, until I realized that, perhaps, I would not like the chain to know that you have been taking a peek, without compromise, at the price of that complete box in the “Twilight” saga.
Here, we are also talking about cookies, which include products, services and websites accessed in your records so that it is possible to display advertising directed exclusively at you on the pages you access. After all, there is no point in showing commercials for a university backcountry record to a heavy metal fanatic.
We have here a profitable industry that, in last year, moved US $ 135 billion. And with the improvement in the tools for analyzing user habits and with the increasing number of different devices accessing information and websites that have integrated advertising systems, the expectation is that this total will double by next year. And here, again, we are talking about Google and Facebook as the two biggest players in this segment.
With AdSense, its targeted advertising platform, the search giant is able to display advertisements from its most diverse services, such as Gmail, Maps and, of course, searches. The same goes for Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, who can check his friends, liked pages and shared posts to also suggest things, from items to be purchased to new content to be displayed on his timeline, even if they don’t necessarily correspond to someone you follow. And in the meantime, right next door, there is also a board of targeted advertising for that restaurant that you thought about going the other day.
Observing the distance
You can also enter another issue related to cookies – the fact that we are always logged in to the email and social media services we use daily. This information is also responsible for sharing information between different devices, allowing, for example, a page viewed on the cell phone to influence the advertisements displayed on the work computer, while that purchase made by the tablet results in the suggestion of related products just above your mailbox.
Facebook, on the other hand, operates only its system and, therefore, it would not be able to count on such a wide scope. In practice, on the other hand, the company opened its doors to the community of developers and webmasters by creating systems that allow, for example, the use of social network credentials to log in or the placement of a “like” or “ share ”on the page of the website being accessed. This, too, serves as a way to track online usage and deliver targeted advertising and services to each user.
There are also monitoring systems that could be called internal, as they only interfere with the use of a specific platform. This is the case, for example, of tracking what you watch on Netflix for new movies and series to be suggested, or of the playlists generated by algorithms on Spotify from your favorite artists and songs.