Examples of being tracked/targeted from Web browsing

Simon, you’re actually sacrificing your privacy simply by participating in society, you’re just not getting the discount as well. Focusing the responsibility on the individual is exactly the opposite of the correct attitude because it obscures the systemic reform necessary. As a lot of examples in this thread and elsewhere show, it is simply not possible to participate in modern society and not be tracked at some level. Use a credit card? Your credit card company will sell that data. Have a bank account? Your bank will sell that data. Have a cell phone? Your provider will sell that data.

It’s simply impossible not to be tracked. An individual can reduce the level of tracking, but not eliminate it. The only way to do the latter (or at least contain it) is at a system level, where the tools of tracking can be heavily regulated and/or forbidden.* The EU has started down that path; Apple is one of the private companies that makes it a selling point. More like that needs to happen. But putting it on the individual suggests that people are making a choice to be tracked and thus no larger reform is needed.

*State level tracking is a whole different kettle of fish, as we’ve discussed in past threads.


Buying an iPhone instead of some cheap Android is an individual decision. Running ad-blockers and using anti-tracking measures in your browser are an individual decision.

But you really missed the point. It’s not about forgoing regulation or data protection laws. Nobody here is arguing against any of that AFAICT. And nobody is claiming you can prevent tracking entirely. But you absolutely can affect how much tracking/spam/abuse you suffer.

It’s clear as day that a place like Alabama isn’t going to introduce privacy laws like Germany has anytime soon. The only thing people in such places can do (apart from elect smarter people), is to protect themselves. Choosing who you do business with (e.g. buying an iPhone instead of an Android) and not handing out more personal information than absolutely necessary for a specific transaction are such measures.

Crying about how the government isn’t protecting you from nefarious players while at the same time handing out your personal phone number to such players just to get a $2 discount is simply not in your best interest. Of course you can choose the $2, but then you know (if you’re being honest) you’ll be swamped with spam and tracked all day long. So complaining after the fact helps very little. It’s really a common sense thing.

You’re sidelining the fundamental and primary importance of that regulation by continually thumping on the moral failures of the individuals. It implies that people can protect themselves from tracking by their individual choices, which is simply not true, and that they are failing by not doing so. Worse, it helps convince people that they can be just fine if they do certain things and thus they don’t have to vote for better people or push for better regulations.

The reality, as I pointed out, is that to live in the modern world means that you’re going to be tracked at some level, and the only solution to that is at the systemic level, not the individual.


I wonder if both sides are equally necessary because the will to impose regulation and data protection is only going to happen if individuals are sufficiently outraged that their elected representatives see the urgency. And outrage needs a near-term outlet of action—there has to be something the individual can do, even if we all know it’s essentially futile.


It’s quite possible – and the outrage of being constantly reminded by small personal violations may well be a motivating factor. The specific part of it that I think is problematic is the “I’m being careful but other people are failing” because it implies that the speaker has done what they needed to and are thus off the hook.

(Remember Al D’Amato, the NY Senator whose nickname was “Senator Pothole” because he always made sure his constituents got helped, even down to the level of a pothole in front of someone’s house? All politics is local is the slogan).

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It’s also necessary to point out that, despite what some people think, tracking is not automatically and in all cases a bad thing. I don’t mind letting my grocery store track my purchases, because they give me coupons for the things I regularly buy instead of ones for stuff I would never get. I do mind them selling that info to someone else.

There are always tradeoffs. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they will accept. But, as you have pointed out, complete and total anonymity is impossible, and has been since long before the Internet, or even credit cards. If you want to be anonymous, you have to go live off the grid outside of any modern nation—and you’re still not guaranteed total privacy.

I miss the days when politicians actually cared about what their constituents needed…


He was also known as “Senator Shakedown”


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Well, yes, that is one of the problems of being attentive to your constituents. Sometimes one of them is Donald Trump.

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D’Amato is prominently featured on a fancy schmancy iPhone cover, compliments of New York Magazine:

Before the moderators say something, I’d like to suggest that we please stay off political topics, lest things either devolve into a shouting match, or folks on one of the two sides end up getting alienated into leaving the forums.


I lived under Senator Pothole - he was really a sinkhole. Don’t believe he cared a damn about the ordinary voter - I spent much of my time trying to provide support for those he didn’t care a damn about. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

You are right, "I miss the days when politicians actually cared about what their constituents needed…":clap::clap::clap:

I also have long missed the day when we cared about those least able to pay for exploitation, which is why the tracked/targeted Web browsing issue is SOOOOO important! Great and informative discussion here - thanks all.


I agree with David C. This seems like an ad for Cliqz. I figure if you give some company that is suppose to watch out for you, like LifeLock, your info, that is one more company that has your info.

I tried going to Fast Companies webpage. From there I went to the Vermont listing of Data Brokers. Trying to opt-out is almost impossible. You have request opt-out with each data broker. The first one I tried, said to call them, and they would give you info to contact their DMA, I think, and 3rd parties. No phone number was listed to call them. opting out of 121 data brokers would take several 12 hour days.

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From the horse’s mouth. This is just part of the answer; it’s worth checking out the whole shebang:

“Sometimes, an ad doesn’t lead directly to an online sale, but instead starts a customer down a path that ultimately leads to a sale in the offline world, such as at your office or over the phone. By importing offline conversions, you can measure what happens in the offline world after your ad results in a click or call to your business.


Importing offline conversion events gives you a more comprehensive look at which keywords and targeting criteria (for example, geography or time of day) drive the most cost-effective conversions. This data can help you target and optimize your campaignsfor increased profit.

If you attract leads or buyers online, or both, you might want to record a conversion in the following cases:

  • When you close a sale offline (for example, over the phone or in person) and track this sale in a customer relationship manager system
  • 30 days after the online sale so you can exclude transactions that resulted in a return
  • Only if the sale was made to a new customer
  • Only if it’s a customer’s second purchase
  • When you close a sale online but are unable to use our standard JavaScript-based conversion tracking solution

Types of offline conversion imports

Google Ads offers 4 options to see how your Google Ads campaigns drive offline conversion imports:

  1. Directly through Google Ads Conversion Import allows you to import conversions that you track in any other system into Google Ads. It’s the broadest option and applies to many different ways of tracking offline conversions. And it allows you to import conversions that started with an ad click or with a call from your ad.
  1. Google Ads Conversion Import for Salesforce® allows you to automatically see when sales events that you track in Salesforce started with a click on an ad.It’s the best option if you use Salesforce’s Sales Cloud® to track your sales data. You can learn more about the specifics for this solution in About Google Ads Conversion Import for Salesforce®.
  1. Zapier offline conversion tracking lets you automate the import of your offline conversion tracking information from many different customer relationship management (CRM) systems to Google Ads. Learn about Zapier offline imports for Google Ads
  1. HubSpot’s Google Ads optimization events tool lets you sync your CRM data with Google Ads, allowing you to track offline sales, optimize your campaigns, and improve lead quality. Learn more about HubSpot’s Google Ads optimization events tool

There’s also a lot more stuff like this:

Bloomberg - Are you a robot?

Google Now Tracks Your Offline Credit Card Purchases and Ties Those to Online Ad Clicks - View from the Wing


My local Koger store, I got the awards program ‘card’, but didn’t turn in the info card. The store does not know who has the ‘card’. I still enter it when I check out and get all the discounts connected to it. I get no mail (snail/e-mail) from Kroger.

I’ve kinda given up. I use a VPN, DuckDuckGo searches, clean my cookies every so often (which is a bummer in itself if I am to retain a few logins), go through settings on my devices, hang on to my ancient (15 years old) TV and car for dear life and so on.

But I’ve long figured google knows everything about me because I use gmail. I tried proton mail a while back, but it would mean getting everyone I email with to have a proton account (or equivalent) and I couldn’t see that happening.

Anyway, recently I was talking on the phone about a friend’s struggling strawberry plant, and the next time I opened Youtube, it dished out a video on the history of strawberries (or something). Spooked me up. But then something similar happened a few weeks ago, and I can’t even remember what it was.

I am old enough to have experienced life before the Internet, before being tasked with the care and feeding of new and improved hardware/software on a regular basis with little choice in the matter, and I don’t think this “thing” is a great improvement, even if for the most part we can’t imagine life without it.

Do you pay for your groceries with cash?

I pay usually with CC, and I admit they probably track me that way too, but the ‘Kroger frequent shopper/discount card’ doesn’t add any info to their database, so I might as well get the discounts. Would there be less tracking if I used a debt card?

Today I just read about DuckDuckGo (DDG) has a e-mail relay to strip out tracking info in e-mail and a Mac browser that is to limit tracking. They also have an extension for Safari that is suppose to limit tracking. I can’t use any of those as my devices and/or software are too old (I guess time to upgrade). Anyone know much about these other the the DDG website?

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Kroger has been very successful with customer tracking in its portfolio of stores for years: