What is Third Party Advertising?
How does it work? Let’s start with us as users. That website you like to visit has a content to present to you. This content however, needs financial support. Majority of websites are serving their visitors ads. Some of these ads are coming from a different sources outside of the website.
In other words, the third party servers are remote storages. The tracking system is actually a strategy. With a small cookie a company can find out individuals preferences, the items they are interested in, and topics they like to follow on.
Hence, the Web Browser plays the role of host. The website forces the Browser to accept the cookie in order to display the content. The websites server gives the Browser a unique cookie. The cookie contains all the information needed to be used in later statistics.
When you see something familiar that you might have searched for or clicked on, is actually the third party serving you more ads similar to the previous, and all based on your behavior. Your behavior is tracked through the cookie placed within files of your Web Browser. The cookie communicates with home server.
Have a cookie
Cookies are small sized files, with string of different numbers and letters. Each website is connected to a server. The server can be perceived as a hard disk on which all the folders and files are stored. The cookie, therefore, is a folder. Despite its small size it is designed to effortlessly transfer itself from server to Web Browser. Otherwise the user might just decide to leave.
The cookie stores various information which will give the company a unique insight. The moment the cookie leaves the home server, his data contains:
- Value of the cookie
- Name of the cookie
- Expiration date
- The path of the cookie.
Based on its information, it can only be accessed from its home server, and it will return when it expires.
Meanwhile, the cookie will gather data on the host’s behavior. Each website the user visited, the links, photos he or she clicked. Depending on the user’s behavior and habits, the average cookie can contain:
- Operating System installed on hosts computer
- Processor type
- Internet Browser model and version
- List of plugins/add-ons/extensions
- Do Not Track status
- Behavior on a publisher site
- Keywords entered
- Screen Resolution
- Fonts and font size
- Geographical location
- Time zone
- IP address
- Referrer URL
- URL requested
- Credit Card information entered while visiting website.
The companies are legally bound to make the cookie expire after certain period of time. The data the cookie gathers and transfers to home server is stored for 24 months in majority of cases. Some companies keep the information much longer. The data accumulates for a very long time, and it may very well be that some information of you from a while ago still exist on the Internet. In addition, criminals from the Dark Web black markets are after data. And that’s why majority of cybersecurity companies uses the term “Internet never forgets”.
Who else is Tracking Me Online?
Each user is different with unique interests and habits. Each website you visit has a certain tracker or two in the background. They are not all placing cookies in your Web Browser, but nonetheless, are still monitoring the performance of their ad.
It may not be the website you visit but the third party companies they have partnered with. The data collected by the website you visited is shared further down the line. These may include: third-party partners, such as marketers, integration partners, pixel partners and resellers.
Despite the general belief that only advertising companies are the online trackers, there are few other online entities performing the same task.
Data Brokers and Data Miners
Data Brokers trade with data instead of the stocks and bonds. Data brokers are individuals much like private detectives. These individuals gather the data online as well as offline.
What exactly are they collecting? Data Brokers often refer to themselves as database marketers or consumer data analytics firms. They gather the information of an individual as a consumer.
The online gathering is searching for any clue or information that can identify the individual as well as to describe their interest or hobbies. The more unique and detailed report the more it costs.
The offline data is something that is not acquired easily. These include police reports or any legal information. Majority of Data Brokers will pay someone to acquire that information instead of them.
Curious users purchased their own data. The results received show that they sell the data on average person for closely $50. This in general depends on amount of information. Some have confirmed that it is all there in details, and some that information is distorted.
What is in the reports?
- Street address
- Email address
- Social media accounts
- Recent searches or likes
- Credit scores
- Property records
- Court records
- Driver’s license and motor vehicle records
- Census data
- Birth certificates
- Marriage licenses
- Divorce records
- State professional and recreational license records
- Voter registration information
- Bankruptcy records
As with major companies even data brokers merge their gathered information with others. They have an opt-out service. To delete data from their website permanently costs $129 a year.
The Data Mining Companies are much similar. The firms gather large amounts of data and analyzing the raw material. Data mining is the analytical process of discovering patterns in large data sets involving methods of machine learning, statistics, and database systems.
Some of these companies include:
- Oracle data Mining
- Portrait Software
- Quantum Leap Innovations
People Search Websites
If you have been looking for a long lost relative, ancestor or school friend, the chance is your data is still on the Internet. Majority of people searching websites are storing all the data. Anything you have submitted is stored away on their servers.
Some of these websites have an opt-out service as well:
- White Pages.
The Internet Browser add-ons or extensions can be extremely useful. However, recent researches have shown that lately popular VPN add-ons are tracking users every move. The paradox of the add-on that is primarily supposed to hide the users IP address, while tracking them.
Others on the other hand are vulnerable to DNS attack. Which means someone might be viewing your URL bar. If you visited a website it doesn’t mean they don’t know you. What you don’t know is that the website you visited might just be able to see your IP address. In other words it’s much similar to when you tell someone your name and street address.
The Top Tracking Companies
The most known trackers today are:
- Scorecard Research
The data tracking companies mostly arrange data in categories. These make it much easier to pull out from the system when needed. For example marketing companies are making an ad for a retail company and they are looking for a certain group of consumers. The system will target a specific description.
Categorization of the consumers is nothing new. Just using Privacy software like Identity Theft Preventer can point out just how much we as users leave easily available on our computers and Web Browsers, without ever being aware of it.
The reason the companies and cybercriminals gather so much data is the cookie left in Browser. It has been proved that only 25% of Internet users clean the Web Browser regularly. Which makes the rest of them easy to target. “The Internet Never Forgets”, so how much exactly is accumulated on us over time?