Technology

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Everything we do online and with technology leaves a footprint.
10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It
Image credit: PeopleImages | Getty Images
Entrepreneur Staff
Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.
4 min read

The prevailing truth in technology is that what we gain in progress and convenience, we often lose in privacy.

Recently, the FDA approved a trackable pill that could be used to treat people who live with schizophrenia and manic episodes. The pill contains a sensor that records when it has been consumed, and is linked to a patch that the patient's wear. The patch is connected to their smartphones, which can then send the information to the doctor that prescribed the medication, if they agree to it.

Related: 8 Times Uber Has Tracked People

Now in this instance, all parties are presumably aware of the monitoring that is taking place. But many companies, such as Uber, have gotten into hot water for stepping over the line when it comes to tracking its users.

The company has had instances of monitoring users if they had the app running in the background, tagging iPhones that had deleted the app and using software to keep track of law enforcement.

And Uber isn’t far from the only entity that may be tracking you and the data footprint you leave behind -- all without you realizing it.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Social Media

The reason why a social media platforms like Facebook is free is because it works with companies to deliver tailored ads to you when you’re on the site. To that end, it keeps track of a number of pieces of information about you ranging from your political leanings and age to where your friends live and what devices you’re accessing Facebook on. If there is a social media platform that is ad-supported, it’s likely that they have a variation on that information.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Search results

Many search engines, especially Google store all of your search results. Google in particular keeps track of what and how you search, what ads, videos, images and links you click on. There are some search engines, like Duck Duck Go, whose selling point is that they don't track user results.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Email

There are third party firms that are employed on behalf of companies that use email marketing like Bananatag and Streak. When you open an email, they will know it. They can also track what kind of device you are using to read your email, if you clicked on a link and where you are when you do.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Apps

A variety of apps, from Yelp to Tinder to most recently Snapchat with the addition of its Snap Map feature track where you are by asking for your location. Usually there is an option to only allow that when you are using the app, but your apps will still know where you are.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Cookies

A variety of sites employ a technology called cookies to monitor whether a user has been to the site before. In most cases they are utilized to remember preferences and target advertising and marketing materials. Most browsers have a way to disable cookies if you do not want them tracking your online movements.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Mobile devices

Your phone has a multitude of sensors that are tracking how you physically use the phone. There are also environmental sensors that know about levels of light and temperature in your space. Your cell service provider keeps a record of your incoming and outgoing calls and your phone's GPS keeps track of your location.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Wi-Fi

Sorry, but it is never a good idea to use unsecured, public Wi-Fi. Even if it’s convenient, convenience will be the last thing on your mind if a hacker uses that connection to get into your devices and find things like your social security and credit card information.

10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Surveillance cameras

As of 2014, 245 million video surveillance cameras had been installed all over the world, according to data from analytics firm IHS Markit.


 
10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Online shopping

Your shopping habits can reveal information to companies that you aren't ready to tell actual people yet. Case in point, back in 2014, a Princeton professor named Jane Vertesi wanted to hide the fact that she was pregnant from the internet. She removed any indication of it from her social media accounts and used cash to buy baby items. It wasn't an easy feat, as she detailed in this video. Had she not gone to those lengths, you can bet that whenever she went online, all of the ads she would have seen would have been baby-related.
10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It

Home devices

There was also a study released last year that found a motion sensor installed in a piece of wearable tech could read a pin number. And as voice technology becomes more and more popular, devices like Google Home and Alexa keep a record of your queries and conversations, but there is a way to access and delete them.
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  • 10 Ways You're Being Tracked Without You Knowing It
  • 1. Social Media
  • 2. Search results
  • 3. Email
  • 4. Apps
  • 5. Cookies
  • 6. Mobile devices
  • 7. Wi-Fi
  • 8. Surveillance cameras
  • 9. Online shopping
  • 10. Home devices
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