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How am I being tracked?

Accepting cookies, using public Wi-Fi, and even having a smart washing machine are just some of the ways people are making themselves trackable online. But are they aware of it? Researchers at NordVPN surveyed 7800 people from 8 different countries, and an astonishing 80% of them are worried about online tracking. Read on to learn more.

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Who is tracking you?

The vast majority of people from all countries are most worried about criminals tracking them online (63%). The Germans are the least concerned about their government monitoring their movements on the internet (26%), along with the Dutch (30%). The Dutch also don’t worry about their spouses or employers gathering data about their actions online — only 3% and 8%, respectively.

tracked down info

How are we tracked?

We use smartphones all day, every day — for work, fun, to get in touch with our friends, or to order groceries. So it’s not surprising that 82% of people believe that their mobile phones are the best way to track them online. At the same time, smart home appliances are not considered capable of spying — they were named the least likely culprits.

Poles weren’t concerned about smart security devices — only 12% thought they could track information about them. Meanwhile, 43% of Americans thought they could be tracked through their smart doorbell.

Roughly 40% of users are concerned that they are being tracked by online companies, like social media giants, advertisers, and big tech corporations. However, 19% of them accept cookies, no questions asked, whenever they are prompted.

Who’s listening?

76% of people stated that they think Facebook is the most intrusive app they use, tracking the biggest amount of data. Ironically, Instagram and WhatsApp (which belong to the same company as Facebook) were named by only 39% and 32% of people, respectively.

tracked down devices listen

This could be explained by Facebook being very ad-heavy. So when they see an ad on Facebook for a new snack their friend told them about an hour ago, they come to a conclusion that it is the one tracking them the most. People also strongly believe their data is sold to other companies and used for targeted ads (66% and 63%, respectively), which makes them trust social media giants even less.

tracked down app comparison

Are you afraid of hacking?

Naturally, people are most afraid that their banking or financial information will be hacked. This corresponds with their other habits: users from all countries were least likely to use banking apps or make purchases with their credit cards online while on public Wi-Fi.

Passwords came in a close second in all countries, around 57%. Further down, Germans, Spaniards, and the French were afraid that their emails would get hacked, while Americans, Canadians, Australians, Duch, and the Poles worried about their home address more.

However, 33% of Spaniards said they log into their personal email account on public Wi-Fi, with 39% of Germans and 45% of the French stating the same. Why is free Wi-Fi a problem?

tracked down info hacked

“Free” Wi-Fi is a significant risk

To access free Wi-Fi, you are often required to provide personal details such as email addresses, phone numbers, or social media accounts. These can be used to gain insight into your habits and preferences and build targeted adverts specific to you. But public Wi-Fi is also often unprotected and vulnerable to cyberattacks, such as the man-in-the-middle attack, where the hacker can see everything you do online.

Most internet users worry about their financial data. People are least likely to use their credit cards and banking apps while on public Wi-Fi, with only 10% of Germans and Duch admitting to ever doing it. However, a surprisingly large percentage of people used public Wi-Fi to log into their email and social media accounts — around 40% of users from all countries did that.

tracked down percentage

How to become less trackable

While we are always tracked in one way or another whenever we go online, there are some things internet users can do to minimize it.

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 it, 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.

Methodology

To gain a better understanding of how internet users worldwide feel about online tracking, we conducted a survey via CINT on October 4-12, 2021. 7800 people were surveyed in total, made up of 800 people from Spain and 1000 people from each of the following countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and the US. Participants formed representative samples across gender, age, gender, and place of residence.

Let's get in touch

Want to learn more? Please contact us at press@nordsec.com.

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