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Opting Out Of Internet Advertising

Even though most people using the internet should know they leave behind digital footprints as they navigate the web, few are fully aware of the extent many of the sites they visit monitor and use the information they garner concerning the browsing behaviour of every individual.

This information is then shared with online advertising companies that collect data across multiple web sites to predict an individual's preferences and display ads that are most likely of interest to them.

This data is gathered through the use of cookies, small text files that a website stores in your web browser's cache, which contain information associated with your web habits and preferences.

However, with the privacy debate constantly heating up as more elements of our lives go online, an increasing number of people are looking to opt-out of such close scrutiny. Somewhat surprisingly there is a movement within the advertising community to help individuals achieve exactly that in an effort to increase the industry's transparency when it comes to the dark art of 'online behavioural advertising'.

The likes of Aboutads.info, the Digital Advertising Alliance's (DAA) Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioural Advertising, promotes informing consumers about data practices so they can easily find out about the data associated with the advertisements they receive and opt-out if they choose.

On the website you can also find out which companies have currently enabled customised ads for your browser and check whether you've already opted out from being tracked by these companies.

To opt out of internet advertising that tracks your behaviour, go to this page: http://www.aboutads.info/choices/

However, while many of the internet's major advertising agencies have signed up to this self-regulation there is still many that have not. Nonetheless it is possible to foil their attempts at garnishing information about you and your internet habits by taking some proactive steps.

All the main web browsers give users the ability to make choices about their privacy, including the ability to block or limit cookies. This can be found in the advanced settings, preferences or privacy tabs, depending on the browser you use.

Your search engine also keeps an ever-watchful eye on your browsing habits. Google uses interest-based advertising by using your search history and web profile to target advertisements at you. You can opt out of the ads both on Google and across the web in your Google Ad settings page (www.google.com/settings/ads). Simply scroll down and click the Opt-out box. Other search engines provide similar opt-out options.

The era of social media has provided advertisers with a wealth of information regarding people's likes, dislikes, hobbies, interests and social groupings. However, by clicking the Edit button in your Ads setting page on Facebook, you can restrict the information that is made available to advertisers.

Likewise Twitter allows you to easily opt out. Simply log into your profile and go to your Security Settings page and uncheck the box under the promoted content section and opt out of being tracked.

The above steps will not make you invisible online, but will undo the ability of advertisers to track your moves and use them to target advertising directly at you. (September 2014)

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