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Six tips to avoid online targeted marketing

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Do you ever feel like advertisers are following your every move? Today, most of us can recite a story from our own personal experience, or that of a close friend or family member, where an advertisement had particularly chilling relevance.

This type of targeted marketing is not necessarily malicious, although there is always the possibility of misuse of legitimate ad networks. And for those of us who are sensitive about our privacy, it can be downright confusing.

If you’d rather your browsing experiences feel a little less like being chased by a psychic, here are some tips to help you reduce the number of targeted ads you receive.

Silent tags
A growing number of brick-and-mortar stores are sending location-based ads to customers who are in their establishments. These can be in-store offers or just a way to encourage you to try a new brand.

As you might have already guessed, the easiest way to prevent these kinds of ads from appearing on your mobile device is to turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC when you’re not using them. Some devices will even let you create handy shortcuts so you can activate this feature quickly and easily.

Edit your notifications
If you’re fed up with shopping sites sending you these intrusive messages, you may be able to change your subscriptions or notifications to stop it. Some sites prefer to present this setting separately from other types of notifications, or you may only be able to stop it by unsubscribing from all company advertising emails.

Remove yourself from targeted advertising mailing lists
There are a surprising number of ways you can opt out of receiving interest-based ads. The Network Advertising Initiative and the Digital Advertising Alliance are self-regulating associations that provide responsible data collection guidelines for advertisers and opt-out technologies for consumers.

Some social networking sites and search engines, as well as major software providers and some Internet Service Providers (ISPs), will allow you to opt out of targeted advertising.

However, these measures come with several caveats. These opt-out methods may be imperfect, and you will need to periodically re-check sites and privacy settings, as options are subject to change over time. This will not completely disable ads; this will likely decrease the percentage of ads based on your interests. Naturally, this could also lead to ads that are annoying for other reasons. But for some of us, going through this process may still be worth it.

Block third-party trackers
Third-party trackers are cookies set by a website other than the one you are on – such as advertisers – that can follow you from place to place. By blocking these cookies, either in your browser settings or with a browser extension, you can stop advertisements that appear to follow you from site to site after you’ve gone virtual window shopping for an item.

Use an ad filter
If you’re not inclined to use an ad blocker – advertising is, after all, the grease that keeps the wheels of most of the Internet running – you can try an ad filter that excludes ads based on certain of the most extreme marketing behaviors. Google’s Chrome browser has included this feature since February 15, 2018.

Delete your information from data brokers
If you really want to get to the bottom of excluding yourself from obscure databases, you can contact individual data brokers (or data brokers) to cleanse or delete your information. It is not a quick and easy process. But again, you might find the effort worth it. You can also hire a service to help you with this process.

It may not be possible to fully control where our data is collected, or what we do with it once it is collected. But the more people who take steps to avoid targeted advertising, the sooner advertisers might realize that these marketing techniques are less beneficial to their bottom line than they now believe.

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