Stop those marketing and company snoops tracking your web activities

Many websites – including Microsoft’s own MSN, which is the default home page for Internet Explorer – display adverts. However, it is possible for these commercial organisations to use various legitimate tricks to track where you go on the web.

To get an idea of what’s going on, open Internet Explorer’s Tools menu by clicking the cog-shaped icon on the right-hand side of the main toolbar. Select the Safety sub-menu, and then select ‘Webpage privacy policy’.

This displays a Privacy Report dialogue box, detailing the adverts and other items on the current web page.

As you’d expect from the MSN home page, some of them come from Microsoft itself – but there are also several items from marketing companies with names such as ‘scorecardresearch’ and ‘bizographics’, who want to track your movements online. Notice also the ‘accepted’ label beside some of those names

Tracking users’ online movements in this way can give companies a good idea of the things that you’re interested in, which means they can target you with ads that are likely to get your attention – and your spare cash.

This practice is widespread and, while it’s not harmful as such, few of us like being watched.

That’s where Tracking Protection comes in. For commercial reasons, Microsoft keeps the Tracking Protection feature disabled by default – it doesn’t want to upset companies that advertise on its own websites – but it’s easy enough to activate.

Open the Tools menu and again point to Safety but this time choose Tracking Protection.

Tracking Protection uses lists in order to combat advertising snoops. There’s one Tracking Protection list shown on this screen, labelled ‘Your Personalized List’.

However, for the same reason cited in Step 3, this list is actually empty, so it is up to you to add the names of the companies to be blocked. Obviously, that’s not very helpful – but fortunately there’s another option available here.

This launches a new page on the Microsoft website that includes more detailed information about how Tracking Protection works.

It’s worth reading this page to get a clearer understanding of how companies can track you when browsing the web.

More importantly, this page also includes a number of Tracking Protection lists compiled by companies and organisations that specialise in online-privacy issues.

We’ll select the ‘Kids and Teens’ list compiled by Abine. visit Abin’s website for more information.

Internet Explorer automatically activates the chosen Tracking Protection list, meaning the companies and websites included on the list can no longer track our browsing habits.

If you’re curious about the sort of companies that are being blocked, open the Tools menu, and click Safety followed by Tracking Protection then double-click the Abine list to see all the companies included on the list.

For extra protection, multiple Tracking Protection lists can be installed – just repeat Steps 4 and 5.