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  • YouthLINE

How Companies Can Track You for Advertising

Brand names like Urban or Pacsun just saved a cookie onto my browser then there's a string of letters and numbers that form a unique ID to help the site remember me, which is surprisingly creepy. The sites you visit do this, too. That is what all those pop-ups are telling you. Cookies actually make our online world possible. But they also allow sites to follow us around the internet. That is because cookies enable companies to band together to track and remember everything we do online, and they have become the center of the war on our data. Imagine every time you add something to your cart and click away, it disappears, or each time you load a new page on Facebook, you have to log in again. The website is like talking to Dory on Finding Nemo. The Dory Analogy is apparent here.

Dory suffers from memory loss, and websites usually do that. However, Cookies solved that problem. In particular, if you were looking for a set of blue suede shoes. With each new click, the site recognizes the Unique ID from the cookie stored on your browser and retains that information like what you put into your cart and your location, what else you clicked on, how much time you spend there, and the details you give it. As you browse through the site or even leave the cookies that they added to your browser will tell them that you're the same visitor, not a different one. Over the last 20 years, they have allowed us to live more of our lives online. It was great to see people create things that we had never thought of. However, one of those things was a way to track us wherever we went next, like a news website or social media. It was in 1994 when Lou Montulli invented the online virtual cookies we experience today.

The buyers in this system are brands that want to sell products by placing ads before people who might purchase them. Then you have platforms and publishers with audiences of people to show ads to. In between, you have middlemen dedicated to making sure the ads from the brands are delivered to the right people. A considerable amount of information they can use to target ads to you. These companies are incentivized to gather as much information about your online behavior as possible. It was designed to place and retrieve the site you were on. So these companies are also incentivized to collaborate. I took another look at the list of cookies that the shoe store gave me. One is called "fbp," Which is for Facebook and Instagram. It was not anticipated from the cookies in 1994 that websites would eventually be full of elements hosted by third parties, and those elements can save their cookies on your browser. Those cookies are created by the third party's domain, which can access the data from your site. However, every site you visit uses those same third-party elements. That is tracking. It transformed our online world from one in which hundreds of companies knew a small amount about your online behavior to one in which just a few companies can know it all. Right now, this map of activity is mainly used to serve your personalized ads. However, there is no getting it back once it has been collected.


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