It’s no secret that when you visit a website, the website sees certain details about you, but have you ever wondered how much they really learn about you? Websites rely on data for various reasons, from improving targeted marketing efforts to conducting market research and even selling datasets as an additional source of income. So what exactly do websites see that makes this information worth collecting?
This article will explore what a website sees and how they learn more about you. Even if you use protective measures such as search engine proxies and VPNs, these sites still see a lot of your information.
We’ll be covering the following topics related to the data websites collect:
- Why do websites track users?
- How do websites track users?
- What information can a website see?
Table of Contents
Why Do Websites Track Users?
There are a few reasons why websites track users, and although these are innocent enough, the amount of personal information they have access to can be shocking. Some of the main reasons that websites track users are to gain insights into how a user experiences their site. By monitoring how long users stay on certain pages, they can see which are doing well and which need improvement. By monitoring what other sites the user visits after leaving theirs, they can see what type of content the reader is looking for to improve their current content where possible and deliver a personalized experience.
Another reason why websites track users is for monetization purposes. Some websites collect your data, such as the browsers used, browsing preferences, gender, age and more, so they can deliver targeted advertisements with a higher chance of being clicked on. Other websites might also collect your data to sell it to marketing firms and businesses that can use it for their marketing purposes.
How Do Websites Track Users?
There are a few different ways that websites can track users. They include:
- Device fingerprinting
- Web beacons and tracking pixels
Cookies are small pieces of data that websites store on a user’s device. Cookies are used to remember a user’s browsing preferences and collect information for advertising.
Fingerprinting is a collection of user-specific attributes from the browser and device to build a unique user profile or fingerprint that can be used to track the user. These can include device information such as screen resolution, operating system, system language and browsers used.
Web beacons and tracking pixels
Web beacons and tracking pixels are tiny tags placed on a website that requests the users to download an image (this usually happens without the user being aware). This request contains details that will track the user and collect their information.
What Information Can A Website See?
Like many, you may be wondering what information websites see about you. This is especially true if you aren’t inputting any information yourself through creating an account or completing a form. However, much of your personal information is attached to the various tools used to access the internet. While these tools are critical, it’s important to note that they do contain your information and even a SERP API, proxy, or VPN isn’t enough to protect you on its own.
Information is hidden in your IP address and your browser user agent. These are both essential tools for browsing the internet, without which it would be impossible to go online.
An IP address is a unique numerical identifier assigned to your network. IP address stands for Internet Protocol address, and it facilitates the communication between the user and the web servers. Your ISP usually assigns your IP address. It contains personal information such as your name, address, device connected to the network and the specs of those devices such as OS, screen resolution, bandwidth, and more. You can use different proxies, such as a SERP API, to hide your IP address and make it difficult for websites to collect accurate information on you.
A user agent is another vital tool for connecting users to the web pages they’re visiting. The browser that you use is your user agent and contains quite a bit of your personal details to improve your browsing experience. The user agent provides your information to the web server you’re accessing for the website to return an optimized webpage for the user to view. The information that a user’s agent shares usually includes device OS, screen resolution, device model, browser version, and web rendering engine. Also, deeper information, such as ISP information, users’ personal information, device IDs, and more, can be collected. You can use user agent switchers to change the information that your user agent shows on web servers, which will hide your real details but might also affect your browsing experience.
Every website a user visits, even if they use proxies and VPNs, will see a measure of the user’s personal information. This is unavoidable, but there are ways to distort the information so that it’s not accurate or reliable. These measures include using proxies to camouflage your IP address alongside user agent switchers to hide your other details.
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