77ºF

Keep companies from tracking you online

Consumer Reports: 4 easy steps to take right now

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It can be creepy when you search for a medical condition online and then a related ad pops up on your screen.

"It's called digital tracking. It happens all the time. And we just think that companies should be able, in simple language, to tell you what information is being collected and how it's being used," said Jerry Beilinson, chief electronics editor for Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports' November 2016 issue has page after page of advice for protecting your privacy. Here are four easy steps you can take right now to limit digital tracking:

  • Install an ad blocker, such as Privacy Badger. It blocks ads that come with tracking software.
  • Check your phone settings to see which apps are tracking your location, and turn off any that don't need to know.
  • If you visit an unfamiliar website that demands your email, go to a site like 10minutemail.com, where you can get a functioning email that self- destructs after you use it.
  • Be cautious of Google.
  • "As you use Google, it is just collecting a tremendous amount of information about you, and it does that no matter where you go online if you use Google search, Google maps, go to YouTube, using Gmail," Beilinson said.

    You can see just how much Google tracks if you look under "My account" and then "My activity."  There are alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo that don't track their users.

    If you want to stick with Google search, you can tweak the settings. You can delete the records of what you search and the YouTube videos you watch.

    In all, Consumer Reports has 66 ways to protect your privacy online. It's offering that advice to you for free here.