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Stop URL tracking links so advertisers can't violate your privacy in 2022
Photo © Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime.com
Privacy

Security tip: How to stop websites from tracking you with URLs

Never underestimate the creativity of online advertisers. Now that many browsers block third-party cookies, advertisers use URLs to track you from site to site. In the name of privacy, it’s time to stop URL-tracking links.

Maybe an ad for something you saw years ago haunts you on every site. In that case, you may need to take extra precautions against cookies. Tap or click here for a few ways to delete hidden trackers from your browser.

This guide will break down how websites use URLs to track your browsing history. Plus, we’ll share some data protection strategies you can use to take back your privacy. Of course, this is one of many ways to protect your personal data.

How tracking links violate privacy

Advertisers use tracking links to circumvent privacy protections. So if you use Firefox, which blocks tracking cookies by default, advertisers can still follow you around the web. They track you through URLs instead of cookies in your browser.

Sometimes, when browsing the internet, you’ll see a jumbled mess of letters, numbers and symbols at the end of a URL. This indicates the different ways sites are tracking you. For example, qid= in a URL refers to the time you searched.

Overall, tracking links can reveal a ton of sensitive information, including:

  • Your full name.
  • Your IP address.
  • Previous search terms.
  • Your computer’s MAC address.
  • Which websites you just visited.

As a side note, not all tracking links are a cause for concern. Some of them are innocuous.

For example, let’s say you’re subscribed to the “Kim Komando Show’s” biweekly newsletter, The Current. Two times a week, you’ll get a quick and easy-to-understand roundup of the top tech news stories, plus trivia games, handy tips and memes.

You might click one of the hyperlinks if you see an interesting story in the newsletter.

Want to stop URL tracking links? First, you'll need to understand how they work. We'll explain what different parts of a URL reveal about your private data.

This will take you to our news site. Right off the bat, you’ll notice how long the URL looks. That’s because it’s full of extra information that lets us know how you came upon this page.

We circled the URL in red.

If you visited this page organically, the URL wouldn’t be so long. In other words, if you had just stumbled upon this page while browsing our site, the URL wouldn’t have the ? in it. But because you found this page through a newsletter link, the URL says &utm_source=current, which lets us know, “Hey! They clicked on a Current link to come to this page.”

Thanks to these URL details, we can gauge how well our newsletters are doing. So from now on, always check URLs when browsing the web.

👍 A good rule of thumb to follow

👀 If you see a link with a ? at the end, it’s probably a tracking link. For example, the link above has a ? before the long line of characters.

👀 The full URL is https://www.komando.com/episode/2-dirty-secrets-the-streaming-companies-dont-want-you-to-know/857087/?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=current&utm_content=2022-10-04.

☑️ Remember: You can generally take ? or utm_ as a sign that a URL is tracking you.

Here at the Komando HQ, we put your privacy first. You don’t have to worry about us selling your data to third-party advertisers. But many websites lack these scruples, so you must be careful.

We’ll share a few cybersecurity strategies. Use these tech tips to protect your privacy.

A simple and easy way to stop URL tracking links

The best way to fight back against tracking links is to switch to a browser that puts your privacy first. We recommend Brave, which has the most built-in tracking and advertising blockers. It ranks No. 1 on our list of the best privacy-focused browsers.

But maybe you don’t like its UI or prefer a different design. Luckily for you, there are a ton of great alternatives. Here are some of the other top browsers for privacy in 2022:

Many of these browsers will automatically block tracking links. This means you get to focus on the fun stuff on the web — without worrying about advertisers violating your privacy for profit.

Now that you know how to stop URL tracking links check out these tech tips

Your phone is spying: Do this now to wipe your interests

How to browse anonymously on your phone or tablet

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