We all probably did a lot more online shopping this year during the pandemic than ever before. After online shopping, you will notice that pop-up ads are constant, and continue to pop up even if you continue to “x” them out. Or you might check the weather, and find that the site you access knows exactly which town and state you are in.

That’s because of cookies and your browser. Here are some tips to minimize the use of your browsing history by third parties.

First, when you use a computer and Wi-Fi in a public place, your browsing history can be accessed and stored. Even if you are browsing using your own Wi-Fi, you can do it privately. All you have to do is go to the far right side of the browsing toolbar, click on the three little dots and select private or incognito.

Next, you can delete your browsing history by going to those same little three dots and clicking on “More Tools;” when the menu comes down, click on “clear browsing data.”

When visiting websites, be wary of any pop-up that asks you to click on “I agree.” Usually it is asking you to agree to allow cookies. If it gives you an option to say “no,” say “no.” If a pop-up asks you if you want to delete cookies or “do-not-track,” say “yes.”

To restrict browsers from sending your location-based data, refuse to provide consent if asked when you visit a site.  Depending on the browser you use, you can go into “preference” in settings and choose the option of disallowing or asking for the request of location when you visit a site.

Use other browsers that have advanced privacy settings, such as DuckDuckGo.

To restrict Google from creating an ad profile on you, you may wish to consider downloading Google Analytic Browser Add-on so your tracking activity is restricted.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn also track our online activities. To limit these platforms from tracking, go to “Settings” in each site, and click on the choices that allow you to limit targeted ads, tailor ads, or managing advertising preferences.

All websites track users. Controlling cookies and browsing history to limit this tracking will reduce the number of pop-up ads you receive, and the sharing of information about your browsing without your knowledge.

It’s that shopping time of year again and we are in the midst of a pandemic, so some of us are shopping differently than in the past. Curbside pickup is an option that has become more popular and for good reason. It’s quick, easy, and contactless. You shop online on a mobile application, you drive up to the store, and a store employee is waiting in the designated parking area with your items. But how does this technology really work and is there anything you need to know from a privacy standpoint?

The process starts when you place your order online using your computer or the retailer’s mobile application on your phone. The mobile application also may have an option for you to tell the store that you are on your way. You click on that option on the mobile application and tell the store that you are on your way. When you arrive to pick up your order, a store employee is ready and waiting to place your items in the trunk of your car. How did the store employee know you were in the parking lot without you telling them?

The retailer is likely to be using a technology called geofencing. Geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary that allows the retailer to know if a mobile device has entered a particular area. This provides real-time location data, enabling store employees to know precisely when you arrive in their parking lot. When you downloaded the application and accepted the privacy policy and terms of use for the mobile application, you also likely enabled location services on your phone for that application. Geofencing technology allows the retailer to track your location down to the minute that you arrived for your curbside pickup.

Privacy policies often are something we click on quickly, having little or no time or patience to read the details that describe how our personal information is collected and how it is used. A retailer that is able to track your location and knows when you arrive in their parking lot is likely to have a privacy policy that states that it shares your device’s mobile location information with its websites and mobile applications. This location sharing also will allow that mobile application to find the store nearest to your location, and even to find products for you while you are shopping.

For curbside pickup, however, your mobile location may be used to track at least a portion of your trip to the store until that exact moment you arrive in the parking lot, so the store employee knows precisely when you arrive to pick up your items. For some, sharing your mobile phone location in this fashion is worth the convenience of a quick, contactless curbside pickup. If this is a little too much sharing for you, you can disable location services in your phone for that mobile application after using the application.

Holiday shopping has started in earnest following Thanksgiving. Statistics show that with the pandemic, more shopping will be done online this year than ever before. We provided some tips last week, but I had an opportunity since then to participate in an interview and a podcast on the subject and want to pass them along to provide additional tips for the holiday shopping season. 

The first is a Bloomberg article that can be accessed here. 

The second was a podcast with Legal Talk Today titled “Safe Shopping on Black Friday” which can be accessed here.

Happy holidays and safe shopping!

I have done more online shopping this year than ever before, and I know that I am not alone. With the holidays approaching, this will only increase because of the pandemic, and hackers and fraudsters know it. 

A recent report by GBG entitled “GBG State of Digital Identity: 2020,” states that 47 percent of individuals have open up a new online shopping account, 31 percent have opened a new social media account and 35 percent a new online bank account in 2020. In addition, one third of consumers 75 years or older have opened a new online account in 2020.

Additional depressing statistics from that report states that one in five individuals have been affected by identity fraud this year and were informed that their personal information has been exposed following the data breach. Therefore, one third of consumers have become more aware of and consumed about fraud and believe their personal information is exposed on the dark web.

GBG estimates that during the upcoming holidays, each online retailer will have to combat an average of 20,000 fraud attempts. 

With these statistics in mind, a recap of tips to think about to protect yourself while online shopping during this holiday season may be helpful: 

  • Be wary of emails with unbelievable sales that ask you to click on embedded links or attachments
  • When shopping online, visit the retailer’s actual website instead of a link that has been provided to you through an email
  • Use a credit card and not your debit card for all ongoing shopping
  • Use a dedicated credit card for all online shopping so if there is a compromise of that credit card it is limited to that one credit card
  • When asked if you want the online shopping site to save your credit card number, click “no thanks”
  • Be wary of gift card promotions or requests
  • Watch your credit card account statements closely
  • Check your credit report frequently

During this holiday season, support your local retailers, shop safely and have a happy, safe and healthy Thanksgiving.