Hidden trackers invade your browser: Here's how to delete them




As long as your phone is on, it's sharing data. This happens whether you have an iPhone or Android, but one company is tracking much more than the other. Tap or click here to see if Apple or Google collects more data.

I bet your home address, phone number, and even more personal information is a search away available to anyone, often for free. I value my privacy, so my team and I put together a great resource to help you out. Tap or click here for steps to remove yourself from 19 of the largest people finder sites.

Advertisers are notorious for watching what you do and where you go online. That's valuable and very profitable information. Here's one way to stop some of the spying:

The bad kind of cookies

Think of cookies as the trail you leave behind when you're online. A first-party cookie is created and stored in your browser when you visit a website. It keeps things like your login info and shopping cart, so you don't have to fill them in again each time. First-party cookies also preserve options and settings.

That's useful, but cookies can be invasive too. Companies use cookies to track where you go and what you do online. They'll even do it on a website other than the one you're visiting. Advertisers love cookies because they help customize the ads you see. If the ads appeal to you, you're more likely to click them, which yields a higher return on investment.

Pro tip: You can block third-party cookies and other invasive tools through your browser. The level of protection varies, but it's worth the time to change your default settings. Tap or click here for tips on changing your privacy settings in some of the most popular browsers.

Blocking third-party cookies and tracking is one thing, but how about not being subject to tracking methods, to begin with? That's where AdChoices and WebChoices come in.

Banish tracking cookies from your browser

AdChoices is a program from the Digital Advertising Alliance, a group of advertising and marketing companies that self-regulate to offer you choices for targeted advertising. Why would they self-regulate? So, no one else steps in to do it, of course.

Try it out next time you see an ad online. Look for the small AdChoices icon. It looks like a blue triangle with a lowercase "i" in the middle.

Click that to get information about the ad, change its settings and block it. Not all advertisers participate in the program, but you'll know it when you see the symbol.

Go further: Delete this secret ID hiding on your phone that gives away your personal details

Within AdChoices is a tool called WebChoices. You can use this tool to opt out of many companies in one step. As with AdChoices, it only works for companies that participate in the program.

Get this: I used it to kick out 144 different tracking cookies!

Here's how to use WebChoices:

• Go to https://optout.aboutads.info. WebChoices will scan your browser and computer to find out whether first-party and third-party cookies are enabled, along with a list of companies creating targeted ads for you. You'll also see which companies you have already opted out of if you've used the tool.

• After the status check is complete, click Continue.

• Look at the Customizing Ads on your Browser column to see which companies use targeted ads. If it says Yes, you can opt out of that company by checking the box under the Opt-Out column.

• Or you can select everything by clicking Opt Out of All.

• After making your selection, click Submit Your Choices. (You can skip those steps by clicking Opt Out Of All as a first step.)

• The website will process your selection, and you click View Updated Results to see how it turned out.

The WebChoices tool works for the browser you're currently using, so run it for each if you use more than one browser. If you didn't catch every company the first time, try rerunning the scan.

If you delete cookies, you may not see the opt-out choices for the company, so run the scan now and then.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called "Kim Komando Today." It's a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: GPS survival tip, sign digital docs, Google Photos update

In this episode, Google updates Photos with redesigned Memories and a new collage editor, use your photos for a virtual clothing fit at Walmart, Keurig's new smart brewer makes a mind-blowing amount of coffee and how to get your real signature on digital docs. Plus, a rescue helicopter nearly abandoned a stranded man by mistaking his distress call.

Check out my podcast "Kim Komando Today" on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, "Komando."

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: how to delete hidden

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