By Monica Laliberte, WRAL executive producer / consumer reporter
When you search for something in your web browser and then see online ads, it is not a coincidence.
Thomas Germain, Consumer Reports technology editor, said they are called target ads.
"They are aimed specifically at you and are based on the things that companies think may interest you or that you are more likely to buy," Germain said.
According to Germain, companies get the information by tracking what they are looking for online.
"Let's say you're buying shoes online," Germain said. "Companies keep track of the websites you visit and the things you do on digital products and, sooner or later, you will see a shoe ad."
There are ways to recover your privacy. First, Consumer Reports recommends testing an ad blocker, a browser extension that searches for the common components of online ads. If they find them, they block them.
Some popular options include AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin.
Many online news sites rely on digital advertising to support their operations, and a growing number of sites, including WRAL.com, detect when users implement ad blocking software.
"We offer quality text and video content that is expensive to create and distribute," said John Conway, general manager of new media for the parent company of WRAL.com, Capitol Broadcasting Company. "That's why we ask users to whitelist our site or deactivate ad blockers when they view our content."
WRAL.com users also have the option to pay a small monthly fee to browse the website while using ad blockers.
"You can also use the private browsing mode in your browser, which is not an infallible method, but it will help protect it in some situations," Germain said.
Private browsing mode works by deleting browsing history on your computer after closing it. Browsers such as Brave and Firefox have integrated ways to help stop targeted ads.
You can also reset the advertising identifier on your smartphone and opt for personalized ad tracking using the operating system.
Always remember: your search history and purchase history are a goldmine for advertisers.
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