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Tracking you on the internet by your email address

Author:  EmailOnDeck
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Ever wonder how a company can know so much about you? Ever wonder how advertisers "target" you with their offers? We're going to dive a bit into how online tracking works, specifically with you email address.

It starts with you visiting a seemingly benign website. It may be a news site, or a fashion clothing store.

You browse for a moment and the familiar pop-up overlay shows up and asks for your personal email address to continue.

They promise you "exclusive" access to their weekly "specials" and events tailored just for you. We all know that these "deals" are just regular run of the mill offers they provide everyone. I mean really, how exclusive can they be if one needs to do is just give an email address to sign up?

Some of the these are even more annoying in that they won't even let you read an article or see their clothing line without you giving your personal email address. Which really means that they are forcing you to accept that they can spam you with email but masking it as something else.

Let's stop here for second.

If you're a regular user of EmailOnDeck, you know that when you run into the above situations you can simply go to EmailOnDeck and get your own private temporary email address. You'll use it for that one-time and then carry on with your internet meanderings.

There's nothing left to worry about and no one can track you by our temporary email addresses.

Tracking you by your personal email address.

Let's say you decide to give them your personal email address instead of a temporary one given to you by EmailOnDeck. Here's what they do with it.

First they generate a unique identifier for your email address. The old way was to take a MD5 Sum of it, though they can use more sophisticated algorithms now.

So the news site that you provided your personal email address to now creates a unique ID of it, let's say for simplicity it's: ABC123.

The news site starts saving a list of all the news articles you read. They may even track comments you left for each article, whether you liked the article etc... And from there they start creating a profile of you.

Now let's say an Advertiser approaches the news site and says: "I want to buy all your email addresses that fall under this type of person." The news site then says yes, we can sell you that and provides all the email addresses along with their unique IDs.

Back to you...

You then head over to the clothing site and give your personal email address to them.

The clothing store then can create a unique ID out of your email address and send that information to the same Advertiser mentioned above.

This Advertiser then takes that unique ID, looks in their database and "analyzes" your profile, which could represent the news articles you've read, your age, income and any other personal information they may have purchased.

Based on this information about you, they find an ad that they believe you'll click on. They say to the clothing web site, show this ad on your website.

If you click on the ad, the clothing store makes money and the Advertiser adds more information about you to your "profile".

Simplified but true

The above example is simplified (if you can believe that!) but this type of stuff happens on the internet 24/7.

If you value your privacy, and don't believe that what you read and view on the internet is anyone else's business, we highly recommend you use a private, secure temporary email address from EmailOnDeck.

Stay safe out there!

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