Can Advertisers Track You On a VPN?
Online advertisers use various ways to target users based on their interests and browsing history. They use technologies like cookies and pixels to track users on the web to gather information about their preferences. You might ask yourself if a VPN hides internet activities, can advertisers track you on a VPN?
A VPN is built to protect privacy on the web. But it has its limitations. To what extent can a VPN hide your footprint on the internet? Let’s take a look.
What is Web Tracking?
Web tracking refers to keeping a close eye on users’ behavior for profiling. Advertisers want to know the interests of internet users so they can work with their partners to target them with relevant ads.
Today, personalized experiences are everywhere. The early days of the internet had static web pages that did not vary based on the user in front of the screen. But as web technology matured, web pages became personalized. Websites track user behavior as they navigate through the different web pages and interact with an object.
Whether it’s a post or an item that you interact with, it gets noted by algorithms that tailor content based on your preferences.
As a social media platform, Facebook’s algorithm improves its News Feed, suggestions, and ads based on your previous interactions on the platform.
But on-site tracking was just the beginning. It is possible to track users even when they are not on the website.
How Do Cookies Work?
A cookie (also called an HTTP cookie) is a small file that is stored by your web browser as you visit a website. It retains important information about you so the website can remember you on the next visit.
Your preferences for a particular website are saved inside a cookie and retrieved when you revisit it to save precious time. It adds to the user experience. If you accidentally lose the items that you included in your cart after long deliberation by closing the window, the website’s cookie will have stored that information for the next visit.
Cookies give persistence to the user experience.
Cookies and Internet Tracking
Ads are one of the ways platforms generate revenue. It can be based on the number of users who see a particular ad or how many clicks are generated. Online advertisers have clients that want to get the word out about their product. The advertisers will partner with publishers to display ads and pay a commission based on certain metrics, like how many impressions they generate on a page.
First-party cookies are the ones that websites store on the web browser and are generally safe. Third-party cookies are used by advertisers, and they are stored when you view an ad on the page. It stores a unique identifier in the cookie so that the advertiser can track you across the web.
Take this as an example. You browse for clothes on a website, then move to another website where you looked up another kind of apparel. If the advertiser of the two websites is the same, it will know you have been shopping for apparel lately and show you ads based on that behavior.
Cookies vs. Device Fingerprinting
Device fingerprinting takes things a step further by collecting various parameters about the device you use. It includes information such as the device you use, operating system, web browser, IP address, geo-location, language preferences, time zone, screen resolution.
All of such factors contribute to the profile the advertisers create about you.
Device fingerprinting is effective because while a user can change the IP address, the user is much less likely to change the hardware. It bypasses the limitations of an IP address.
And cookies are something that a user can disable by simply switching the setting in the web browser.
Can Advertisers Track You On a VPN?
A VPN connects you to a remote server that acts as a proxy between you and the destination address. If you want to access Facebook, you will connect through the VPN server’s secure tunnel. Consequently, you can spoof your IP address and geo-location from the destination.
Advertising works differently and does not rely on your geo-location. The fact that cookies can be retrieved from you proves the identity. Moreover, other trackers on the web page can identify you based on other factors, as discussed previously.
How to Stop Internet Tracking
Web browsers have begun prioritizing privacy over speed and other types of functionality. One fruit of such efforts is the ability to block third-party trackers. Today, the feature is included in top web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera.
- Open your web browser.
- Go to settings.
- Find the option to block trackers. It should be in the browser’s privacy settings.
Internet tracking is a reminder of the invasive nature of online advertisements and the lengths advertisers go to gather information about you.
Protect your data while using the internet. While a VPN does not completely prevent internet tracking, it makes your web activities hidden to the ISP. Your ISP may secretly be working with data brokers for profit. It’s not something unheard of.
Encrypting internet activities can prevent this from happening. Connect to iProVPN’s highly-secure server for private access to the internet.
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