San Diego

Privacy Problems With Online Holiday Shopping

Are banner ads giving away your holiday gift ideas? NBC 7 Responds has some helpful tips

Part of the Santa Claus lore, mostly to entice young children to be on their best behavior, is Santa Claus is watching and knows when they have been bad or good.

But the dependence of shopping online for holiday gifts also means someone else may be watching; the people you are buying gifts for. They do so by simply logging on to the family computer and looking at what ads are sprayed across the screen.

“Even if you don’t use the same computers, if you use the same wifi, then those banner ads can jump from computer to computer,” said web designer Mark Burgess.

“People don’t realize how much of a trail you leave on the internet.”

And, that can spell trouble when you’re doing your holiday shopping online, something that a growing number of people do every year.

“I’ve done like 90 percent of my shopping online, maybe more,” says San Diego resident Abigail Wiest, a mother of four.

“It’s a little creepy to me,” she said. “I’ll shop for something on Amazon and then a few hours later I’ll open Facebook and there are three or four ads on the screen.”

So just how can you stop giving holiday secrets away?

“First off, go to the retail store,” said Steven Osinski, a marketing professor at San Diego State University. “Because one thing is for sure, the concept of retargeting has proven very effective so it is not going away anytime soon.”

There are some other tips:

  • Select the privacy mode on your internet browser. This mode deletes browser history and does not store web data.
  • Also, some website, Amazon is one of them, allows you to create separate user profiles. This prevents any holiday snooping.
  • Lastly, turn off notifications on your computer.
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