More and more people are concerned about online tracking as it is still a fairly unregulated market. Companies both big and small are doing their best in order to collect as many details about us as they possibly can, with the likes of Google and Facebook leading the way. These two, however, are not the only ones doing that as even your ISP would like to know “what you did last summer.”
Heck, in some countries, ISP logging is mandatory – prompting people to use VPNs in order to be more anonymous online. Or, as we like to put it, to be more free on the Internet.
Then again, not all VPNs are made equal. In their best form, VPNs will protect your privacy online and help you fight back against the Big Tech as it is trying to profit from your habits, either by serving your “relevant ads” or selling you more of the stuff “you’d like to buy.” (but not necessarily need).
In this article, we’ll explain the different trackers VPNs use and why you should care. Let’s get started, shall we?
First- vs third-party trackers
There are two kinds of VPN trackers – first-party and third-party trackers.
The former come in the form of “cookies” and are used by pretty much all websites around the Internet, VPNreports included. We use them in order to know what our visitors are reading on the site so we could use that data and write similar stuff.
Other websites may use them for remembering their users’ preferences, language settings and other non-identifiable information. Online stores put this on another level as they tend to put these details into action and show customers products that are in some way related to their previous purchases. Also, cookies can be used to remember the ID of a shopping cart so next time you visit some online store, the stuff you previously added there but haven’t completed the purchase – is still awaiting for you.
In a nutshell, first-party trackers are meant to provide users with a smoother experience for regular site visitors or frequent customers.
On the other hand, there are third-party trackers which are created by entities other than the site you’re visiting. Google and Facebook are arguably the biggest names in the third-party tracking spacing. Their trackers are placed across the Internet and come in the form of Google Analytics (Google Tag Manager) or Facebook Pixel codes.
These two provide site owners with more detailed information about their site visitors and even allow them to target the same people on other sites. Heck, Facebook even allows users to target “similar audiences” like those that are visiting any website.
To put it differently, third-party trackers allow advertisers to show their ads to people that could be more interested in the products and services they’re promoting.
Yes, it’s scary and we don’t like it. Thus, we suggest people to regularly remove all Google and Facebook cookies and use a VPN to trick those trackers in the first place.
We have to mention Apple here as it has been doing a lot in order to protect its customers from third-party tracking. Kudos to them for making that move.
Can VPNs track you?
Yes, they can and some are even doing it. This is especially the case for free services which have to find some way to make money. And since they are not selling the subscription, they can sell their users’ data.
In that sense, they can even incorporate third-party trackers into their own apps and combine that data with the list of URLs the user is visiting to get a more complete picture of his/her behaviour.
This is the reason why you shouldn’t get the best VPN the money could buy. For what it matters, these are not expensive services and it is our belief that everyone should be getting himself/herself a VPN.
VPNs with embedded trackers are scary
As noted above, if a VPN decides to integrate trackers within its apps, they would have a lot of details to sell. If you registered with your main email address, they have the “complete combo” of information that advertisers crave for. Instead of dealing with unidentifiable information, a VPN could offer them your data, all with your email address, your location (based on your real IP address) and everything else.
This is a scary scenario and another reason NOT to even try using a free VPN — except if it’s a free trial or a free tier of the otherwise paid VPN. And even here, you would want to go for a reputable VPN that’s been around for quite some time.
What can you do?
Let me repeat myself – get the best VPN you could. There’s our list of Best of the Best VPNs which we strongly suggest you check.
We suggest taking our “shortcut” — cause we did the hard work of reading these pages ourselves — but it’s your money and your privacy. So do what you think is right.