How much info is your web browser giving away about you?
September 21, 2023 4 minutes
Do you ever get the feeling your web browser is watching you? It is…in a way.
It’s fair to say that your browser isn’t really watching you (with some exceptions). It’s just probably not protecting you. Think of it this way: when you visit a website or digital service on your web browser, chances are those sites, their advertisers, and even potential hackers are asking questions about you.
Where do you live? What things do you search for? What other sites have you visited? Did you click on any ads today? What kind of devices do you own? What’s your email address? What kind of payment systems do you use? Can we install more plugins for you?
Web browsers can give away most if not all of this information about you.
If you’ve ever been curious about what your web browser is sharing about you, here’s a fun digital experiment that will give you a little hint about privacy and tracking online:
Before you start, spend a little time on the internet. Look at your favorite websites, news feeds, social media sites, etc…all the places where you normally see advertisements. Make a few mental or written notes about the content of those ads. What are they about, and what products are they for?
Be sure you’re connected to your home wifi or the regular network you use for all your online devices (smartphones, smartTVs, tablets, etc)
Search for something safe but specific, e.g., “new trends for shoes for fall” or “best computer monitor in 2023”
Click on a few of the results (no need to buy anything at all)
Watch how your online ads and suggested news on your devices changes over the course of the next few days
Is your web browser spilling the beans about you?
How did your experiment come out? Did you see an uptick in suggested ads or articles for new shoes or new computer equipment (or whatever your search might have been)? Did you see a change in ads just on the device where you did the search, or did you see similar changes on your smartphone or other devices?
When you click on links, open new tabs, and watch videos, trackers attempt to collect data from your web browser about your online behavior with the websites you interact with. That’s by design. Behind the scenes, web browsers also want to do everything they can to personalize and optimize our online experiences. And, to a limited extent, we want them to do that for us.
Cookies, cache data, and browsing history are components that help deliver ads and content relevant to our preferences. When we’ve been searching the internet for a new pair of kicks, we might be served an ad for the perfect pair of shoes. That’s enabled these kinds of trackers.
How to take hold of your browser security and privacy
Becoming a pro with your browser security and privacy settings is the metaphorical equivalent of sitting down with your browser and having a serious talk about what you do and don’t want it to share about you. But that can be a difficult conversation.
Open any browser and you will see options for things like cookies, thumbprints, allowing scripts, and secure redirects. In addition, many modern browsers have a 'Private' or 'Incognito' mode that doesn’t store browsing history, cookies, or search records. While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t fully protect you from trackers and malicious websites.
Securing your privacy can be made simpler by adopting a secure browser that’s designed to be transparent and clear when you decide what information you want kept away from the internet. That’s why we’re launching the Norton Secure Browser to help protect your privacy.
There are a few features that make the Norton Secure Browser stand apart from others when it comes to protecting your device and your personal information. For the sake of your privacy, these are features most everyone should be requiring from a web browser.
Easy, clear security controls: When you’re adjusting your privacy and security, you shouldn’t be confronted with technical jargon and complex settings hidden inside collapsing menus. To manage your information, you should opt for an easy-to-use dashboard that consolidates security and privacy tools in a single space.
Ad and privacy controls: When it comes to ads, you should have the ability to block ads and ad-tracking assets so that your personal searches, interests, and interactions are kept private. When you have your privacy set to maximum, you should feel confident that it’s much harder for anyone to build an online profile about you from your web browsing history.
Block malicious websites & content: Your browser should have access to a database of known malicious websites that prevents you from visiting harmful pages, as well as preventing any website from downloading malicious content to your device.
Safety powered by experience: Behind that browser should be a service that has deep experience in antivirus and web protection. A 100,000-hour pedigree of expertise in blocking dangerous software and malware that come from the internet is a handy tool to have on your side.
We understand that in today's digital age, maintaining privacy while enjoying the vast resources of the internet can seem challenging. The Norton Secure Browser is designed to strike a balance, ensuring you can surf the web, shop, and connect without compromising your privacy.
Dive into a safer, more private browsing experience with our advanced, secure web browser, and take back control of your online profile with Norton.
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc.