Two thirds of Americans worry about cybercriminals tracking them online 

A digital privacy expert reveals that people can be tracked by almost all devices connected to the internet

Americans are becoming increasingly concerned that they are being tracked online by cybercriminals looking to steal their data and even their identities.

new survey by the cybersecurity company NordVPN revealed that 73% of Americans are worried about being tracked online, and 35% think they are being tracked almost all the time. However, experts say that people are making themselves trackable by accepting cookies, using public Wi-Fi, and even having a smart watch. These are just some of the ways among many that people may become trackable.

“It’s not only cybercriminals who are interested in your data. Social media networks, ISPs, third-party organizations, websites, and governmental institutions regularly collect users’ personal data and information about their browsing habits for marketing or other purposes. They frequently use cookies to track your digital footprint,” says Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

60% of Americans believe that they are tracked by cybercriminals

The majority of Americans believe that they are mostly tracked by criminals (60%) and the government (47%), but they’re also worried that social media giants like Facebook (46%), brands or advertising agencies (34%), and information and advertising aggregators like Google (40%) are following their activities online.

Worth adding is that more than half of Americans (63%) feel that apps are asking for more information than necessary. Among the apps they believe collect the biggest amount of users’ data are Facebook (78%), Instagram (42%), and Google Maps (32%).

A digital privacy expert reveals that people can be tracked by almost all devices connected to the internet

Poor security habits put the Americans at risk online

In order to avoid being tracked online, you first need to know which devices and services are most commonly used for tracking.

When it came to the devices most likely to track their online activities and collect their data, US respondents believe smartphones are the best way to track them online (80%), followed by laptops (71%), desktop computers (66%), and tablets (62%). However, smart home appliances are not highly considered capable of spying — they were named the least likely culprits.

One of the easiest ways US people allow themselves to be tracked online is by enabling cookies – the study shows that 19% of surveyed Americans always enable cookies, and 23% do so unless they look suspicious. Surprisingly, only 7% never accept cookies.

“Another area where people often get caught out is accepting cookies – they can track and collect data from your browser and send that data back to the website owner – and if you don’t ‘decline’ third-party cookies, the website can sell your browsing data to third parties,” says Daniel Markuson from NordVPN.

Using free or public Wi-Fi also comes at a cost. “When you use ‘free’ Wi-Fi, there is a good chance it’s managed by a third-party provider, which gets you online in exchange for your valuable sign-on data such as email addresses, social media profiles, and phone numbers. What might surprise you is that some hotspot providers are taking data collection a step further and quietly tracking millions of users’ whereabouts even after they have left the establishment,” reveals Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

Americnas are putting their data at risk while logging into their personal emails (46%) and using social media channels with auto logins (42%) while on public Wi-Fi. Additionally, a large percentage of people used public Wi-Fi to log in to other accounts (37%) and buy from online retailers (24%).

How can the Americans become less trackable?

While we are always tracked in one way or another whenever we go online, internet users can take some steps to minimize tracking. Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN, recommends:

  • Use a VPN. By using a VPN, you will hide your real IP address and location from all third parties, including your ISP, cybercriminals, network administrators, and advertisers.
  • Use privacy browsers. Get an internet browser specifically tailored for people with online privacy in mind: no auto-syncing, no spell-check, no auto-fill, and no plug-ins.
  • Ditch Google. Google tracks a lot of data about you — if you want to avoid that, you’ll have to opt for other email providers and search engines.
  • Be careful online. Don’t overshare on social media — the information you reveal about yourself online can be a goldmine for cybercriminals.

If you would like to become less trackable, check out our experts’ recommendations here: www.nordvpn.com/tracked-down/

Methodology: The survey was commissioned by NordVPN and conducted by the external company Cint on October 4-12, 2021. The survey’s target group was residents of France, the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Poland aged 18+ (nationally representative), and the sample was taken from national internet users. Quotas were placed on age, gender, and place of residence. 7800 people were surveyed in total, made up of 800 people from Spain and 1000 people from each of the remaining countries.

ABOUT NORDVPN

NordVPN is the world’s most advanced VPN service provider used by over 14 million internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption, malware blocking, and Onion Over VPN. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide. One of the key features of NordVPN is the zero-log policy. For more information: nordvpn.com.

 

About The Author

John Guilfoil is the editor-in-chief of Blast: Boston's Online Magazine and the Blast Magazine Network. He can be reached at guilfoil.j@blastmagazine.com. Tweet @johnguilfoil.

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