Who is following you online? | Westmeath Examiner | Media Pyro

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If you’ve ever wondered how much of your online activity is being tracked, chances are you’ve underestimated the extent.

The latest research by cyber security company NordVPN shows that Irish websites have an average of 15.2 trackers. Streaming websites in Ireland have more, with an average of 25 trackers.

Most of the trackers found belonged to third parties. About 30% of third-party trackers are owned by Google, 11% by Facebook, and 7% by Adobe. These companies later use the collected data for marketing purposes.

“The number of web trackers depends mostly on the country’s data protection laws. This is why websites in Central and Northern Europe, where GDPR rules apply, have fewer trackers. In the UK, the situation is much worse due to problems with the implementation of the GDPR. In fact, the UK has the most trackers compared to any other European country. Ireland is also affected by this,” says Daniel Markusson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

The researchers studied the 100 most popular sites in 25 countries of the world. Using three different tracker blockers, they could see how many trackers (such as a cookie or tracking pixel) these websites use to learn more about their users.

Why are trackers dangerous for the Irish?

Trackers are usually embedded in the code of websites and are difficult for the average user to detect. The types of information that trackers collect may include IP address and location, browsing history, what users click on the website, what items they view and for how long, and information about the browser and device they use.

Trackers can help website administrators improve the user experience by analyzing how visitors interact with their website.

On the other hand, this information helps create a user profile that is sold to third parties (such as Google, Facebook and Adobe mentioned above). They use the profile to show more targeted and intrusive ads that follow users from website to website.

The worst case scenario is if cybercriminals get hold of this data. They can build a detailed portfolio about someone and use it against them in a phishing attack, creating a highly personalized and believable message.

How to avoid tracking

Below, Daniel Marcuson lists several ways users can make themselves less visible online:

* Use a VPN. By using a VPN, you hide your real IP address and location from all third parties, including your ISP, cybercriminals, network administrators, and advertisers.

* Install tracker blocker. They prevent your browser from collecting information about you and can also work as an ad blocker. Some tracker blockers, like NordVPN’s Threat Protection, offer other cybersecurity features like malware protection.

* Use privacy browsers. Get a web browser specially designed for people who care about privacy online: no auto-sync, no spell-check, no auto-complete and no plugins.

* Opt out of Google. Google tracks a lot of data about you—if you want to avoid it, you’ll have to choose other email and search engine providers.

The research methodology can be found here: https://nordvpn.com/blog/nordvpn-research-website-trackers/

ABOUT NORDVPN

NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider, used by millions of internet users around the world. NordVPN provides double encryption VPN and Onion Over VPN and guarantees privacy with zero tracking. One of the product’s key features is threat protection, which blocks malicious websites, malware, trackers, and ads. NordVPN is very user-friendly, offers some of the best prices on the market, and has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries around the world. For more information: nordvpn.com

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