I’ve been shopping online for a new computer, and now ads for the computer keep showing up. How can I stop them?
By Rachael Z Arndt
To stop pesky ads, you’ll need to stop the cookies associated with them. When you visit almost any Web site, it places tiny bits of data, called cookies, on your computer, and retrieves those cookies every time you visit again. That’s why sites can remember your login information. But it’s also why the same ads pop up everywhere you go. When an advertising company on one site sends you a cookie and you visit a different site served by the same company, the cookie gets sent back, essentially giving the ad service a record of the Web pages you visit.
It’s hard to stop all Web trackers, but you can impede many. In Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer, disable third-party cookies in browser settings and install Adblock Plus (only regular Adblock is available for IE) and Do Not Track Plus to prevent tracking. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also recommends installing its HTTPS Everywhere extension as a safeguard against more nefarious snooping.
Advertising organisations such as the US National Advertising Initiative help you eliminate targeted ads via opt-out Web sites; also see privacychoice.org. There are downsides to going completely cookie-free, though: Web pages won’t remember your login information, and shopping sites won’t give you recommendations or let you keep items in your shopping cart.