JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Do you ever feel like someone’s watching you, especially when you’re online? You search for something in your web browser and then see online ads for the same thing? That’s not coincidental. Those are called targeted ads.
Consumer Reports says instead of reaching a mass audience like TV commercials do, targeted ads allow advertisers to reach specific consumers. They’re directed at you, and they’re based on the things that companies think you might be interested in or more likely to buy. Companies do this in part by keeping track of what you’re searching for online.
CONSUMER REPORTS: Digital security and privacy guide
For example, you’re shopping for sneakers on the internet. Companies are keeping track of the websites you go to and the things you’re doing on digital products, and sooner or later, you’re going to see a sneaker ad.
If this feels like you’re giving up too much of your privacy, Consumer Reports says there are ways to keep your online activity private.
First, try using an ad blocker. Ad blockers are usually browser extensions that look for the common components of online ads. If they find them, they block them. Some popular options include AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin.
Another option is to use the private browsing mode on your browser. It isn’t a foolproof method, but it will help protect you in some situations.
Private browsing mode works in part by deleting the browsing history on your computer after you close it. Also consider using browsers like Brave and Firefox, which have built-in ways to help stop targeted ads.
You can also reset your advertising identifier on your smartphone and opt out of personalized ad tracking using the operating system. Here's how you do that:
Settings > Google > Ads > Reset Advertising ID
Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Reset Advertising Identifier