With technology becoming more and more complex each day, it has become hard for users to keep track of all of the different ways their data could be tracked, and it has become even harder for them to stay updated on the best ways to stop this data/privacy from being breached.
Think about it. How many times has this happened to you? You search for something online and later find ads about that same thing conveniently pop up on your social media. It’s strange, almost as if advertisers and businesses are spying on you.
Given this, one can’t help but wonder whether there is some way marketers and website owners have access to more information about us than we actually reveal to them.
The short answer is that website owners can’t see who visits their sites exactly, only anonymous data about their visitors’ location and activity. However, there are indirect ways they can come close to finding out.
In today’s article, we’ll talk about how “invisible” you are when you visit a website, and we’ll take a look at what data you reveal to website owners without your knowledge.
Later in this discussion, we’ll also talk about the different ways website owners track your information and how you can protect your data’s visibility.
What Information Can Website Owners Track?
Generally, website owners can see your device’s IP address, the device type, the browser you’re using, your city, what pages you viewed, and what things you engaged with.
This, however, is nothing to worry about since website owners only get to see this data anonymously.
For example, if a website owner gets 10.000 visitors in a particular month, they will be able to see what percentage of that traffic belongs to a specific country.
Now, if you volunteer information about yourself, especially if you do so on an unsecured site, you reveal a lot more about yourself than you would like to.
For example, if you fill out a form on an unsecured website (or even a secure one, for that matter), you will be adding your name and contact details to the site owner’s customer database.
What About Bank Details?
When you enter your bank details on a website to make an online purchase, your credentials are secure only if the site has an SSL certificate. SSL-certified sites are also called “secured sites,” and you can identify them through their “HTTPS” tag. In contrast, an “HTTP” tag in the website URL indicates that the site is unsecure.
Secure or “HTTPS” websites protect your bank details and other private information by using random numbers and symbols to encode this data in a process called “data encryption.” Note that if you enter your bank details (or any other sensitive information) into an unsecured website, you will risk hackers getting a hold of this data and then misusing your sensitive credentials.
Can Website Owners Detect Screen Recordings?
Yes, website owners can detect whether you’re taking a screenshot or screen recording of the contents of their website. However, this differs from case to case. As far as screen recording through browser plug-ins goes, websites can easily detect those.
However, if you use an external app to screen record a website on your browser, it becomes much more difficult for the site to detect it. Although it is not impossible, this holds true for most mainstream browsers used today.
As for phone apps, it is pretty easy for them to detect when a screenshot/screen recording is taken. This is precisely how bank apps, educational apps, and other content-sensitive apps like Netflix can stop you from capturing the contents of the screen. They detect that a recording is taking place in the first place.
How Can Website Owners Get My Personal Information?
In this section, we’re going to briefly discuss all of the different ways website owners track your activity on their web pages.
The most obvious way website owners can get a hold of your data is if you actually go ahead and volunteer information about yourself. This includes filling out forms that ask you for your private information or sign-up prompts that require your email.
Although, you should note that the bank details you enter while making an online purchase are encrypted and, therefore, safe.
However, this is only true for secure sites. Secure sites are websites that have SSL certificates, and you can identify them from their “HTTPS” tag in the URL (instead of “HTTP” tags).
You should not enter any private information about yourself on unsecure or “HTTP” sites. Otherwise, you will risk handing over your information to potential cyber criminals.
Another way site owners learn about you is through google analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool that helps site owners track their site’s traffic, engagement, and more.
Note, however, that while site owners do see things like their visitors’ location and activity on their site, etc., this data is anonymous. This means they don’t know who exactly visits their site, only where they are located and which pages they engage with.
Visitor ID Identification Software
Visitor ID identification software is the closest marketers, and website owners have come to find out the contact details of the people who visit their sites. The way this software work is this.
When you visit a website, you reveal your IP address and location to the site owner. However, other private information like your name, email, and phone number remains private to you.
If, however, you volunteer some information to that site, i.e., by signing up for a newsletter, the website owner will be able to use Visitor ID software to match your IP address to your mail and create a “profile” about you. This way, they know how where you’re from and how they can contact you.
Facebook pixel is a piece of code that website owners can add to their website to track your activity and then reach out to you on your social media. To be clear, site owners can’t actually see your social profiles, but they can use the Facebook ad algorithm to show you ads about the products you viewed on their site.
There isn’t much to worry about here since site owners never get a hold of your exact information in the first place, meaning they can’t misuse it.
How Can I Stop My Personal Information From Being Tracked by Site Owners?
Use a VPN
Using a good VPN service, you can hide data like your IP address and location from website owners. Not even your ISP will be able to detect your traffic when you use a good VPN service. However, enabling a VPN each time you want to visit a website/ blog is impractical, so we only recommend you do this for sites you don’t trust.
Don’t Fill Out Sign-up Forms Unless You Have To
Filling out sign-up forms is like presenting your private data to website owners on a silver platter. Only fill out sign-up forms for websites you trust. Otherwise, get ready to be spammed with emails and advertisements.
Don’t Visit Unsecured Sites
As we mentioned earlier, “HTTP” sites are unsecured, meaning whatever information you reveal to such sites can potentially reach hackers who might misuse it.
Browse With Tor
Tor is a browser that helps you hide the origins of your data to hide your identity. It protects users’ anonymity and even allows them to access the dark web. The downside is that things run incredibly slower on Tor.
To sum up, website owners can see information about the traffic coming onto their websites. However, this information is in aggregate, and the anonymity of individuals is maintained.
The only way sensitive information about you can reach site owners is if you volunteer that information through sign-up forms or if you enter that information on an unsecured website.