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What are trackers? How to deactivate? Easily explained

A tracker can be many things. Most of the time, however, the term is used in connection with the Internet, where tracking is often used as a marketing measure on websites or on smartphones and tablets. In this guide we explain what trackers are and how you can deactivate them.

What are trackers? How to deactivate? Easily explained

The word tracker comes from English and comes from the verb "to track". Translated, this means something like “follow someone”, “watch someone” or “track someone down”. There are basically different types of trackers.

Most of the time, however, the term refers to user tracking or online tracking on the Internet, for example on websites or through apps on smartphones and tablets. There, for example, the user can be assigned an ID number using browser cookies or an individual browser fingerprint, and his online activities can be tracked. The information collected is then evaluated anonymously. So-called cross-device tracking is relatively new.

Website operators or marketing staff can then use the tracking information to improve your website. If, for example, it is determined that only certain content on the website is clicked on and others not at all, the apparently uninteresting content can be replaced by others.

Internet trackers are more the rule than the exception: on some websites, more than 40 trackers can be active to track and document user behavior. This often happens across other websites as well. For example, the Firefox add-on Lightbeam shows which websites are tracking you.

Tracking: What information do trackers collect?

Trackers sometimes collect the following information:

  • Which websites do users come from?
  • How long do users stay on the website?
  • What content is most clicked on?

Who is a tracker good for?

The use of trackers is controversial. The information from user tracking is extremely interesting for marketing employees and companies as well as for advertising. A very well-known program for online tracking of websites is Google Analytics. From the point of view of the user, however, this certainly does not want to be tracked and identified everywhere on the Internet, even if there is no identification with the correct name, address, etc., but with a user ID.

Video | Unwanted tracking is not cool

On the other hand, certain software such as Windows 10 uses tracking so that services such as Cortana work comfortably and can access user data. However, trackers can sometimes track more data than is required for the function of an app or a program.

For smartphone and tablet apps, tracking is usually controlled via the app authorizations. You should then read this carefully. Because why does a flashlight app have to track my position in order to work?

Deactivate tracker - Here's how

To deactivate trackers, you first have to know that they even exist in software.

For Windows 10 there are many programs that can deactivate data protection and tracking settings, see Windows 10: Data protection - how the operating system spies less.

In the case of apps for smartphones and tablets, you should take a close look at the authorization before installing them. Because at this point you basically confirm that you agree to the tracking of your position.

So if you think an app requires too many permissions, you might be better off looking for an alternative. How to change the app permissions in Windows 10, you can read here: Windows 10: Change app permissions - Here's how.

For websites, there is the NoScript add-on for the Firefox browser, which can be used to deactivate tracking scripts on websites, among other things. However, you have to allow certain scripts there in order to be able to use Javascript, Flash or Silverlight. Otherwise the website may not work properly and images and videos may not be displayed.

You can also block cookies in the settings in browsers such as Firefox and Chrome. However, you then have to repeatedly enter your username and password in the form fields on websites, for example, as these data no longer remain in the cache due to cookies. There is also usually a function that tells the website that you do not want to be tracked - keyword “Do Not Track”. However, there is no guarantee that websites will adhere to them.

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