How to Stop Online Ads from Following You

Ever feel like advertisements are stalking you on the web? Here’s how to throw them off your trail.

It’s a familiar scenario: you start out shopping for a new blender and suddenly start seeing ads for Vitamix and Cuisinart on Facebook.

They’re called targeted ads. Not only do they follow you everywhere, but they can sometimes feel like an invasion of privacy.

Yet targeted ads are less sinister than you may think. When you browse the web, small files called cookies track what you search for and the pages you visit, among other things. Advertisers use this information to predict what ads you’ll want to click on in the future.

The only way to stay untraceable on the web is to stay offline. But there are a few steps you can take to avoid the advertisement barrage.

 


1. Clear Your Cookies

Once a week, go into your browser settings and clear your cookies. This will make it more difficult for advertisers to follow you around the web. If you’re serious about avoiding targeted ads, you can block cookies altogether (keep in mind, some sites require cookies to function properly).

In Chrome:

  1. Open Chrome on your phone.
  2. Tap More (the three stacked dots) > History > Clear Browsing Data.
  3. Select Cookies and Site Data, then tap Clear Browsing Data.

In Safari:

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone.
  2. Tap Safari > Clear History and Website Data.
  3. Tap Clear History and Data.

 


2. Reset Your Advertising ID

All Apple and Android phones have an advertising ID that helps marketers track your browsing habits. The good news is, you can reset it at any time.

  • If you’re on an Android, go to Settings > Google Settings and tap Ads > Reset Advertising ID.
  • If you’re on an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy and tap Advertising > Reset Advertising Identifier.

 


3. Go Incognito

Pretty much every web browser has a private or incognito browsing mode that blocks cookies and keeps your search history from being recorded.

In Chrome:

  1. Open Chrome on your phone.
  2. Tap More (the three stacked dots) > New Incognito Tab.

In Safari:

  1. Open Safari and tap the Show Pages icon (two blue windows).
  2. Tap Private > Done.

 


4. Dig Into Your Google Ad Settings

Google helps you understand why you’re being targeted by certain ads. In Ad Settings, you can turn off targeted ads completely (from Google) or turn off certain interests that determine which ads you see.

  1. On a computer, go to Google.com and make sure you’re signed in.
  2. From there, tap your Profile icon > Google Account.
  3. At the top of the screen, tap Data & personalization.
  4. Scroll down to the Ad personalization section and tap Go to ad settings.
  5. To turn off personalized ads completely, tap the switch at the top of the screen. Tap Turn off Got it to confirm.
  6. To turn off ads by topic, scroll down until you see “How your ads are personalized.”

While you’re at it, check out Google’s My Activity tool. By using it, you can see searches you’ve made, your browsing history, and most other activity associated with your Google account. To help keep targeted ads away, go through it periodically and delete your data.

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