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Technically, only your Internet Service Provider (ISP) could track your entire online activity. But apart from your ISP, almost every big tech company like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple with access to user-based profiles practices a form of limited data collection and surveillance. Here is a list of who can see what you're doing on the World Wide Web:
Computer cookies (also known as "web cookies", "HTTP cookies", "browser cookies" or "Internet cookies") are virtually invisible files or pieces of information planted by websites on a computer's hard drive each time someone visits a website. Stored in all web browsers from Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, to Internet Explorer, cookies record user visits and activity. This is not always a bad thing if we consider online retailers or streaming services that "remember" user preferences and shape a more helpful online experience. Otherwise, it would be impossible to buy anything online or to stream TV series online.
Depending on the activities they track, there are three types of cookies:
Wi-Fi owners or providers can see any user's browsing history as well as:
Incognito mode doesn't make Internet surfing untraceable, either. It just doesn't save it on the current browser. Yet, there are two ways of hiding the Wi-Fi browsing history, namely through Virtual Private Network (VPN) or The Onion Router (TOR).
Until May 2020, only ISPs could see a user's browsing data. Now, under section 215 of the Patriot Act, federal law enforcement agencies such as the CIA and the FBI have the power to ask ISPs to provide this data and look into anyone's online browsing history without a warrant or a probable cause.
The swiftest and simplest way to see what someone is up to online and to track their browsing or search history is by directly accessing their smartphone or computer and opening their favorite internet browser. On Chrome, one simply has to click or tap on the three dots at the top right-hand corner, select History from the dropdown menu and a list of all the websites visited by the person who used that computer, tablet, or smartphone from their Google Chrome browser will pop up.
Parents and employers are the main categories interested in this type of monitoring. They can also use third-party apps that "spy" on someone's web history remotely, without touching the monitored device during the surveillance. The information tracked includes any combination of the below features:
The two downsides are: having to install it on the tracked device without getting caughtby its owner and the risk of them noticing the app.
The best ways to find out if someone's own PC internet activity is being spied on are:
Also known as "web bugs", "clear GIFs", "tracking pixels", "invisible GIFs", "pixel tags", or even "spyware" (because they record online activity), web beacons are transparent graphic images or file objects delivered through an HTML e-mail or an internet browser. At just 1 pixel x 1 pixel, they monitor:
The difference between web beacons and web cookies is that unlike cookies, web bugs cannot be accepted or rejected by the website visitor. Web beacons are not always dangerous or intrusive. They're typically used for:
Tech-savvy Wi-Fi owners can access a device/computer's deleted browsing history only if the router is set to keep log files. Even so, it usually records just the links and no search queries. However, online trails go beyond a browser's history, including temporary files and cache. If the Wi-Fi admins have access to the same computer where someone is logged into their Google account, they can view the entire search history, unless the user does any of the following:
A web bug can be used to obtain an email recipient's IP address, as well as to collect the following identifying information, through tracking tokens:
Email-sourced Web bugs simply report back to the sender that someone opened an email, therefore validating the existence of that email address.