How to remove a tracking URL, and why you should

How to remove a tracking URL, and why you should

April 17, 2024 privacy 0

Browsing the Internet connects you to the world. However, at the same time it can expose you to various corporate and other entities that use website URLs to track you online. Thankfully, you can shield yourself from tracking URLs if you know how to remove them. In this article, we explain why you should remove tracking URLs and how you can do it. What is a tracking URL? A tracking URL (also known as a tracking link or campaign URL) is a URL with a specific tracking tag in it. Depending on the creator’s objective, the tag, similarly to a tracking pixel, can monitor various data such as website traffic or user engagement. Tracking URL parameters often include such information as the source of the traffic or the medium through which it was acquired, and are often used in digital marketing, social media campaigns, shopping websites, and similar types of e-commerce and advertising. By analyzing these online trackers marketers and webpage owners can monitor website visits, conversions, click-through rates, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine the success of ad campaigns or product sales. How tracking URLs work Tracking URLs start by checking your online activity the moment you click on them (for example, via an ad or shared link). The parameters used in tracking URLs can vary depending on the analytics or tracking system being used, as well as the specific information that a marketer or website owner wants to track. However, there are some commonly used parameters that are widely recognized and used in tracking URLs. These include: utm_source: specifies the source of the traffic (for example, the platform, website, or publication where the link is placed). utm_medium: indicates the medium through which the link was shared (such as email, social media, or display advertising). utm_campaign: identifies the overall marketing campaign associated with the link. utm_term: identifies the specific keywords associated with a paid advertising campaign. utm_content: differentiates between versions or elements of an ad, such as different ad creatives or variations. Another way to spot a tracking URL, is to look for a question mark in the link. The characters that follow the question mark are the query parameters that inform a URL owner that you’ve clicked on that link. Using this information, it can then create your profile for targeted advertising, which may raise threats to your online privacy. Important: Some marketers and websites use shortened URLs like bitly, for aesthetic or hiding purposes. To remove tracking parameters, follow the steps below. {SHORTCODES.blogRelatedArticles} How to remove tracking parameters from a URL Removing tracking parameters from URLs is simple, yet requires some knowledge. There are at least a few ways to get rid of trackers, including manually editing URLs in your browser. However, the most common practices include using privacy-focused browsers, browser extensions, and URL trimmers. Removing tracking URLs in Firefox For Firefox users, the browser offers a query parameters stripping feature which automatically removes tracking parameters while browsing. The feature works on Firefox 102 and later versions, and can be enabled in just a few clicks: With the Firefox browser open, click the three-dotted menu in the top right corner and select “Settings.” Click “Privacy and security.” Navigate to the “Enhanced tracking protection” panel and set the tracking option to “Strict.” Important: Firefox will only block trackers when browsing in public mode. To enable URL blocking in a private window, navigate to “about:config” and find “privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode.” You will see that the value is set to “false.” To change it, click the “Toggle” button and apply changes. Removing tracking URLs using browser extensions Using a browser extension that blocks tracking URLs is another effective way to increase your online privacy. While every browser has unique extensions, you can also find some universal options that work across several web browsers. To remove tracking URLs with web extension: Find the web extension in your browser’s add-on store or in the URL cleaner extension website. Install extensions and add them to your browser by following the prompts of the installation process. Configure the extension’s options to your liking and start browsing. Depending on the browser and the extension, the set up process may vary. Be cautious when picking a service, check their privacy policy and cater towards the more reputable ones. Finally, follow the installation instructions carefully. Removing tracking URLs using a URL trimmer If you’re using NordVPN, you don’t need to look for additional extensions or browser features. NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature along with the tracker blocker option offers a URL trimmer tool that rids the links of any unhashed tracking parameters. In addition, NordVPN offers a free link checker service that can safely check the URL for malware, fake websites, and phishing attacks. To enable the URL trimmer, all you need to do is turn on the Threat Protection feature: Open the NordVPN app. Click on the shield icon on the left-hand side and open the Threat Protection section. Turn on Web Protection to enable URL trimming and other protective measures. How to limit being tracked online While you cannot browse the internet without being tracked, you can still increase your online privacy by using a few simple cybersecurity practices. Use a VPN. Connecting to a VPN server masks your true IP address from online entities, prohibiting most third-parties from tracking your location, and allowing you to enjoy safe online shopping or other online services. Regularly clean cookies and browsing data. Cleaning internet cookies, the cache, and browsing history is a healthy practice of online hygiene. Just like brushing your teeth helps keep your oral health in check, routinely deleting unnecessary cookies protects you from prolonged online tracking. Carefully review permissions. Online websites must ask for your permission before using cookies. Before accepting the terms make sure to carefully review and modify the permissions to your liking. Use privacy-enhanced tools. This can include free anti-tracking software, privacy-enhanced browsers, web extensions, search engines, and even encrypted communication channels The importance of data privacy continues to grow every day. To better protect yourself from potential cyber threats and enhance your online privacy, consider using NordVPN. Its Threat Protection feature blocks ads, intrusive tracking, and malware, helping you maintain your privacy and security online.

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