By the ZoneAlarm Team
Ever had one of those creepy “who’s been watching me?” moments on the Web?
A friend was recently Web-researching beaches in the
If you’ve had an experience like this, chances are you’ve encountered what is politely called “behavioral advertising,” and some of us are a bit unnerved by it. Some of us feel like we have been watched and our privacy has been violated.
That’s why we looked for a free way to opt out of having our “click-streams” (list of sites we visited) monitored.
But first, is there good reason to opt out of this monitoring? Can these companies actually identify you by name, or is your behavior anonymous to them? Well, according to the Network Advertising Initiative, you are “often” anonymous, but there are ways the ad companies can connect your identity to your Web surfing behavior. Although the NAI strongly discourages these companies from identifying you without your consent, some of us aren’t totally comfortable with this monitoring thing yet.
The well-respected Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends an Network Advertising Initiative Web site service as a good way to opt out of sharing of click-stream data with advertisers.
Here’s how to do it:
Go to http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp and you’ll get an impressive list like the one shown below. It not only tells you which surf-monitoring cookies are active on your system, but lets you opt out of all of them.
An alternative tactic is to block cookies in other ways, but there are some convenience issues with doing that. If you block or delete all cookies, then your bank and sites you use a lot (perhaps Amazon.com and Netflix.com) won’t recognize you. You’ll have to keep reentering your info when you go to those sites, and you won’t be able to put something in a cart, leave, and return to it later.
The inconveniences caused by deleting cookies are precisely why the ZoneAlarm Extreme Security Private Browser mode was designed to be used on an “as needed” basis. It deletes all cookies only at the end of designated private browsing sessions. Alternatively, you can go into your browser’s Privacy settings and block all Web browser cookies, which results in the inconveniences mentioned above. Or, you can regularly delete specific cookies by hand, but most people find this too time-consuming.
You do have options. Pick the one that’s right for you.