SAN ANTONIO – It can be a creepy feeling when you search for something online and before long, ads for the same thing pop up. It’s no coincidence. They are called targeted ads and there are ways to limit them.
Instead of reaching a mass audience such as television commercials do, targeted ads allow advertisers to reach specific consumers.
“They’re directed at you, and they’re based on the things that companies think you may be interested in or are more likely to buy,” said Thomas Germain, tech editor for Consumer Reports.
Companies do this, in part, by keeping track of what you’re searching for online.
For example, you’re shopping for sneakers on the internet. Companies are keeping track of the websites you go to and the things you’re doing on digital products. Sooner or later, you’re going to see a sneaker ad.
If this feels like you’re giving up too much of your privacy, Consumer Reports says there are ways to keep your online activity private.
First, try using an ad blocker. Ad blockers are usually browser extensions that look for the common components of online ads. If they find them, they block them. Some popular options include AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin.
Another tip is to use the private browsing mode on your browser. It isn’t a foolproof method, but it will help protect you in some situations.
Private browsing mode works in part by deleting the browsing history on your computer after you close it. Also consider using browsers such as Brave and Firefox, which have built-in ways to help stop targeted ads.
You can also reset your advertising identifier on your smartphone and opt out of personalized ad tracking using the operating system. You do that through your settings.