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Concerned About Online Tracking? You're Tracked Offline Too

The discussion about the tracking of our activities, purchases, likes, and so forth has been focused online. Now comes news about tracking us in stores and other places offline. While stores have used various methods to track customers within the store, these have usually been anonymous. Now stores are taking advantage of technology and using information that is transmitted by smartphones such as the media access control (MAC) address and retailer’s or shopping apps. In addition, apps provided by retailers can collect personal data and information about buying habits.

Another concern is the merging of online and offline tracking data. Some data brokers are using email addresses to merge the data while others are using names.

Can you control tracking? To some extent, yes. But controlling tracking is an ongoing task. Here are some steps you can take.

Disable third party cookies in every browser you use including tablets and smartphones. Many third party cookies are set by advertisers. You can disable all cookies but many sites won’t work properly, including your credit union and banking sites, if you don’t allow them to set cookies.

Many browsers provide a private browsing setting. Check out this and other privacy settings for each browser you use.

For every website you use, visit their privacy pages and adjust the privacy preferences.

Use search engines that don’t track you such as DuckDuckGo and Ixquick.

Tools such as Ghostery, Disconnect, DoNotTrackMe, and Adblock Plus can help depending on the browser you use.

For mobile devices, turn off Bluetooth whenever you aren’t using it. Disable location tracking except for those apps that need it such as maps. Don’t allow your device to search for Wi-Fi networks until you need one. Disable Wi-Fi until you need to use it.

Before installing an app, determine what services it needs and why. Check out its privacy policy, too.

The following resources provide more information:

Why Online Tracking is Getting Creepier

How Retailers Use Smartphones to Track Shoppers in The Store

My phone at your service

Privacy in the Age of the Smartphone