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07 June 2017
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Q. Often when I am browsing the internet, ads appear in the browser window related to previous searches or online purchases or holiday planning. I find these spooky. Is there any way I can stop them?

A. What's happening here is that online sites you visit are seeding 'cookies', small fragments of tracking code, to your computer and are working with online services you use to track and profile you for advertising purposes. Think Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, and you get the idea. It is certainly possible to cut down on the targeted ads. Here are some approaches to consider:

  • Use private mode in your web browser. For Chrome this is called incognito mode; for Safari, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge you need to activate a private window
  • Install ad blockers on your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. These are available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Do a web search for 'ad blocker' for your operating system or check the iTunes or Play store. It is best to use a paid-for app rather than a free app. This helps to ensure the developers keep it up to date
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN sets up an encrypted tunnel for your data to flow securely to its des-tination. This is particularly useful if you are accessing the internet from cafes, hotels, trains or buses. Many of the VPNs for mobile devices have built in ad blockers. For example, Opera VPN
  • Consider closing and deleting social media accounts that are targeting you, for example Facebook or Twitter.