We’ve all had that moment when it feels like the internet is somehow reading our minds. One day, we could be looking up new tennis shoes, and right after the perfect shoe appears on our Facebook feed. All of that is done thanks to web tracking. Web tracking is a method of collecting data and information about users. Every time you browse, tracking looks at the websites you visit, how long you stay, the things you click on, etc. It might sound scary, but it can be beneficial to help tailor your online experience.
First Party vs. Third Party
When you visit a website, your data could be collected by a first party, third party, or a mix of both.
First party: This is data a company collects about its own audience, meaning, they are tracking how people engage with their website. No other company or outside source is involved with this. For example, if you’re shopping online, that website can collect data such as the items you’ve viewed, how much you’ve spent, and how long you've stayed on each page.
Third party: Third parties are outside sources that aren’t affiliated with the website you’re visiting. Since they collect from multiple websites, a company might use third party trackers on their website to get a more well-rounded image of site visitors. For example, that same online shopping site might use third party trackers to understand how you shop at similar stores, your demographics, and other spending habits.
Types of Trackers
Browser Fingerprinting: This type of tracking looks at the kind of browser you are using including the version, operating system, specific plugins, etc.
Pixel tags: Basically, these are tiny images usually about the size of a single pixel. When a webpage loads, the images are downloaded allowing the sender to know that the page was loaded.