It gets a little creepy.
You check out some airline prices online. Next thing you know, ads for hotels and flights to that destination are popping up everywhere you go.
Called “retargeting” the information from your searches helps companies to get more mileage out of their marketing dollar, as their ads are then targeted to folks who at some point actually expressed an interest in a related service or product.
Retargeting has been around for about four years, although its earliest iterations were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now.
Realize that advertisers can’t do this without the data collected and made available by companies whose browser you’re probably using. Since 67.5 percent of search is done using Google, it’s their retargeting protocols (data mining) relied on in this article, although other search engines collect the same information.
That’s the annoying, but more innocuous side of data mining.
Then there’s the not-so-innocuous aspect which includes the fact that nothing you search for in the privacy of your own home is private any longer. Search engines have your information and it could and has gotten out, notwithstanding the best of intentions. And this information (your search history) can be pretty personal – even if you’ve enabled “private browsing” mode. “…it doesn’t matter if you have private browsing enabled, you’re going to have all your information exposed,” says Danny Quist, a computer security expert and founder of Offensive Computing, LLC. Private browsing was intended to shield your browsing activity from others accessing your actual computer.
Use a Mac? You may be shown higher hotel prices at Orbitz than those using non Mac computers.
Applying for health insurance? Some companies considering using your searches.
With only the timestamp and computer information, your searches can often be traced directly to you. With the additional account information, they are associated directly with you.
If you just want to eliminate the annoying retargeting ads, you can check out truly private browsing such as Tor, which needs to be downloaded onto your computer. Or, check out DuckDuckGo.