What is Web Tracking? [Web Tracking Explained in Brief]

We already know that our online activities can be tracked by the sites that we visit. So any activity that I engage in online browsing on a particular site is visible to that site. But what we’re observing now on the Internet, is in certain cases our web browsing activities, and some information about us is actually being shared between multiple sites.

How Online Tracking Works?

This may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you feel about it. So let me give you an example, let’s say that I’m on a particular website right here and Alice is browsing this website, looking for electronics, maybe this is Amazon, maybe this is Newegg whatever, and so this site has a fair amount of information about what Alice has been looking for recently. The types of products that she might prefer you know, whether she’s looking for gaming consoles or something that’s more practical for home use, or something like that whatever, and so this site you know it has a lot of information about this.

Helps in Targeting

But then later Alice goes to some other site, maybe it’s a blog, maybe it’s a newspaper or something like that, and that site wants to put ads on the page, that are appropriate for Alice. It wants to target advertisements on that page according to something about Alice it might you know try to figure out what’s the best product I can choose to appear here. That’s going to appeal to her and of course, the problem is here that this site a lot of the sites, whereas appearing a lot of the sites that depend on ad revenue in order to make money. They actually don’t necessarily sell a product or service so this site is like the shopping site over here right and this is the news site.

How tracking services can take benefit?

The new site doesn’t need to sell ads in order to make money but it doesn’t know what Alice likes. In contrast, the shopping site is actually selling a real product. So the shopping site is less dependent on ad revenue but it knows what Alice has been looking for, and so what happens a lot now is that these sites find different ways to share information with each other. So one example of how to do this would be the shopping site could stick a cookie to Alice’s browser. The new site that an advertising network that the new site uses would retrieve interpret and then use to determine what ads should appear on the page. She is browsing which is looking at online news and so this happens you know frequently online. This is the reason why when you go to certain pages you see ads that are sort of surprisingly relevant.

My Example

So For example I’ve been considering for a while buying a turntable, I don’t know why but I keep going back to this one website that sells turntables and has some recommendations for sort of low-priced entry-level turntables. When I browse the internet I see a lot of ads for turntables, I’m not sure why because it’s clearly not working, I haven’t bought one yet. But there’s clearly some information that’s being passed from that site that I’m visiting. That’s you know giving me what it’s supposed to be some sort of unbiased review of turntables, that’s like doesn’t sell turntables right but it needs to monetize information somewhere. So it’s probably sharing that information with an ad network.

Using tracking to show appropriate Ads

That’s then using it to be to realize oh wow this guy has visited this site a lot that has to do with turntables, maybe I’ll stick some turntables into this ad spot on the page. Because that’s an ad that he might consider both, so there are ways to disable this, there are ways to ask advertisers not to track your activity across multiple sites. But on some level, some people may not find this to be particularly problematic, mainly because the goal here is to actually place ads on the page that are relevant to you.

So part of the question when it comes to web tracking is done, you want to see ads that are potentially a good fit for you and your preferences, or would you rather not see those ads, would you rather not have these advertisers sharing information about you to some degree. The goal is to provide a more personalized advertising experience that’s a better fit for you, but the mechanisms of doing this to some people can seem a little bit creepy.

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