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Targeted ads aren’t just annoying, they can also be harmful. A digital privacy expert shares five steps to avoid it.

Targeted ads put people’s personal data at risk, NordVPN experts warn. Such ads might be a convenient way for marketers to present ads that reflect consumers’ specific traits, interests, and shopping behavior. Many people have shopped online and after checking several websites all they saw throughout their devices were targeted ads of, for example, a new watch.

However, while targeted ads are convenient for marketers and advertising agencies, they also put people’s personal data at risk. Anyone can buy this data and use it for purposes other than targeted ads and advertising campaigns.

“Most people are unaware of how targeted advertising works and how much of their personal information is collected online. Web cookies, location information and mined data collect information about our browsing activities from site to site.

“These ads are not only irritating but also put people’s personal information at risk. One of the key concerns is the fact that targeted ads reveal personal information, such as age, gender, income, relationship status, political views, and sexual orientation. Companies can use such data to predict whether they can charge people more as well as forecast your behavior and incentivize your actions. One example could be the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It targeted voters with ads based on their psychological traits in order to manipulate them better,” adds Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.

How Can You Stop Targeted Ads?

“Targeted advertising might create a feeling that advertisers are stalking your every move. If you’re cautious about your privacy, this can feel unnerving,” says Daniel Markuson.

If you are tired of shopping sites sending you “I see you checked out this item, here’s some similar stuff” messages, Markuson recommends several steps:

  • Modify your notifications. Some sites are better about presenting this setting separately from other types of notifications, or you may only be able to stop this by unsubscribing from all advertising emails from the company.
  • Opt out of targeted ads. Some social networking and search engine sites, as well as major software vendors and some ISPs, will allow you to opt out of targeted advertising.
  • Use an ad-blocker. Ad blocking extensions work on the browser level to prevent advertisements, banners, and pop-ups. However, you can go further with an ad block VPN such as NordVPN and its Threat Protection feature.
  • Delete your information from data brokers. If you really want to exclude yourself from shadowy databases, you can contact individual data brokers to clean up or delete your information.
  • Use a VPN to hide your identity. A virtual private network won’t hide all ads, but you won’t get any personalized ones. A VPN hides your internet activity from prying eyes, including marketers and your internet service provider (ISP).

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