Avoiding ad trackers when you browse the ‘net

22 Jun 2021 | News, Security

Your own personalised stalker

It always seemed slightly creepy that your computer shows advertising that is strangely accurately targeted at things you might have been interested in.  On the surface, that seems quite useful.  If you have to tolerate ads on your screen, at least having them show things you were interested in seems helpful.

Instead, we wonder how the system knows.  It feels like a breach of our privacy.

It all starts when you install an app, and it pops up a question asking for permission to use your location, and/or your camera and/or your microphone.

This is useful for advertisers.  For example, they can use your location.  If the app reports this back to the content provider, they can match up your location and compare you to other people nearby.  If you tend to go to the same places as other people, you are probably interested in the same things, so an advertiser might use that assumption to present advertising to you, or other people that you spend time with.

That does sound a bit overreaching, but we reluctantly agree to the presented terms simply because we want to use the app.  If that is a condition of use, and we want to use the app, then we agree.

So, now we are seeing consumers getting the choice to push back.

Apple

Now, with iOS15, Apple are saying that you will get to see what apps are accessing your data.  You will be able to see when an app used that permission, and there it was sent to.  Whether that list of third party sites is any use or not is meaningful is unclear.

Google

Not quite as advanced but following quickly behind is Google Android.  With Android 12, you will have the option to de-personalise your data.  They will still track usage, but won’t link it back to you.

Is there any truth to the rumour that your phone or TV is listening to you, and presented content based on private conversations it overhears?

Given how poor the voice recognition is on phones , cars, or tools like Alexa or Siri, its pretty evident this can’t be reality.  If it, is, then heaven only knows what it thinks it’s hearing.  The voice recognition tools are getting better all the time, but there is a long way to go.

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