What is cross-site tracking and how to prevent it?

What is cross-site tracking and how to prevent it?

Have you ever wondered why when you visit a particular website or page, you suddenly start getting ads or recommendations similar to your search history? This is mainly because almost all other websites or apps track your activity to improve your experience on their website and make web browsing more relevant to you through advertisements. This is something called cross-site tracking.

However, that is not always the case. Cross-site tracking could offer a couple of benefits, such as faster results or more pages for users to consider, depending on what your requirement is. But sometimes cross-site tracking is seen as an intrusion into user privacy. You can prevent that from happening and prevent cross-site tracking, whether in Safari or any other browser and OS.

What is cross-site tracking?

Cross-site tracking is pretty simple; it is when a website records user data across multiple websites. It helps them create better advertising campaigns and improve their ways of approaching the audience.

When you switch from one tab to another, some trackers follow you throughout your session, collecting all sorts of data, like which sites you're visiting, what actions you're taking on those sites. They save this data to create user profiles for targeted advertising.

How does it work?

You don't have to be an expert to understand the gist of how cross-site tracking works. Many websites have certain trackers or use cookies that store relevant information about your online activity to enhance your experience on their site.

However, these trackers are not just limited to that specific page or website; they are also able to follow you as you switch tabs. For example, you may have noticed that when you visit certain websites, multiple people have sharing options, such as the Facebook logo, which allows you to share to Facebook.

When you choose to share content to Facebook or any other social media platform from another website, you allow that particular website, as well as your chosen social media platform, to store your information. They usually claim to record only the relevant data. However, there is no guarantee as to what exactly is stored and if that data is shared with various third-party organizations without your consent.

How to avoid cross-site tracking

Fortunately, you can prevent cross-site tracking. With the advancement of technology and people's awareness, developers have realized the various security risks that cross-site tracking presents. They have created the option to block or disable cross-site tracking.

How to disable cross-site tracking in Safari

As mentioned above, cross-site tracking is used by various third-party websites, which can be prevented. Fortunately, Safari introduced its new tracking prevention feature in versions 11 or higher to prevent third parties from tracking you. Below is a tutorial on how to turn off cross-site tracking in your Safari browser on both Mac and iOS.

For Mac OS users:

  • Go to the Safari app on your Mac and click "Safari" > "Preferences" > "Privacy."
  • Select "Prevent cross-site tracking".
  • That's all!

For iOS users (iPhone/iPad):

  • Open "Settings"
  • Click on "Safari" from the list
  • Under the "Privacy & Security" tab, enable the “Prevent Cross-Site Tracking Button”.
  • Come back and use Safari without being tracked across sites.

How to disable cross-site tracking in Google Chrome

There is no "prevent cross-site tracking" button in Chrome, but there is a "Is it Do Not Track" option available. Here is how you can prevent cross-site tracking on PC and Android Google Chrome:

For PC users:

  • On your PC, launch "Chromium."
  • At the top right, click the three vertical dots to open the menu.
  • Click on "Settings" > "Privacy and security" and> "Cookies and other site data".
  • Enable Send a "Do Not Track" request with your browsing traffic.

For Android users:

  • Open "Chrome."
  • Click on the vertical dots on the right side of the screen and click on "Settings".
  • Click on “Privacy and Security” and then on “Is it Do Not Track”.
  • Turn the setting on or off, depending on what you need.

How to disable cross-site tracking in Firefox

  • Open Firefox.
  • Click on the hamburger icon (three lines) and click on "Options".
  • Select "Privacy & Security"
  • Under the “Enhanced Tracking Protection” option, click on the “Custom” option, and then on “Cookies.” The default selection will be "Cross Site Crawlers and Social Networks".
  • The changes should now be changed automatically.

The benefits of cross-site tracking

Cross-site tracking is known to be quite useful for some. However, it is more useful for companies and big brands than for individual users.

  • Organizations that own multiple brands or more than one website often choose to use cross-site tracking to compare and cross-reference actions taken on their pages. It saves them time and cost, as well as giving them an easy way to keep track of everything. Through this feature, they can track user choices and further improve their navigation, advertising strategy, pricing according to the results.
  • In the same way, many web pages choose to use third-party applications such as shopping carts or payment methods. You may have noticed that whenever you choose the option to pay online, in some cases you are redirected to a separate bank web page, which then asks you to upload your credentials. In such cases, its use is essential because if no trackers are present, the redirected page will not receive any information and will not be linked to your shopping web page. With the tracking feature, the redirected page is linked to the shopping web page and is aware of your activities and the items and quantity in your shopping cart.
  • Lastly, it helps businesses create a better user profile and improve their overall experience on their website. With such user data, they can understand your preferences, whether it is the way you like your design or the items you add to your shopping cart; it makes the time you spend on the internet so much easier.