Tech mistake |Have you been trying to get a hold of the perfect gift for your special someone? Are you thinking about buying your parents tickets for the ideal tropical winter vacation they have always wanted? Is it a new gaming system for your kid? No matter what you are looking forward to buying this holiday season, a simple mistake can foil your plans.

No matter which browser you use, it stores the history of your website visits. So, if you have been researching gaming stations or Hawaii vacations for seniors on the web, there should be a clear blueprint of your plans on the History section of your browser. There is an obvious and easy solution to this problem. You can switch to the incognito mode to complete your research. However, is that enough to throw off the search engines and not show product suggestions when some other member of your family opens the browser?

How can your online activities pose a threat to your holiday plans?

When you shop online, the sites and the marketers track your movements. Have you noticed how the online ads suddenly changed to beachwear and sunglasses the moment you began researching beach vacation options? These are suggestive ads that draw cues from the topics, products, and services you are searching right now. While these come with lucrative offers and discounts, some of them are enough to give your grand holiday plans away before time. They might be convenient, but they pose a significant risk to the user’s privacy.

Did you know? If you share the same Wi-Fi network at home, your family members may get product suggestions and advertisements related to your recent searches? It is annoying, but that is how the modern systems and search engines work. So, if your workplace is hosting a Secret Santa event, you need to be aware that the recipient may be sitting two cubicles away from you on the same Wi-Fi network.

How to combat the online ads and product suggestions?

Here are a few things you should know about online ads and user tracking before you carry out your search any further –

  1. Online advertisements – they are potential giveaways since they leave a blazing trail to the e-commerce sites you have been frequenting. So, when your children or parent use your computer, they will be able to see suggestions of similar items from the same site or related sites. If you are using your mobile to complete your research, you are not living without threat either. Most of our home desktop, laptop and mobile accounts are in sync. That means whatever you see on one device leaves a footprint on the other.


  1. Your Facebook and social media activities – your social media profiles will highlight the different brands you engage with. That is not much of trouble unless your profile automatically shares all your likes and activities. Soon, you will be able to see online ads related to your recent purchases and website visits. If you share these suggestions and offers, your intended recipient might be able to see what gifts you are looking at.


  1. Allowing notifications from the sellers – many sellers and e-commerce sites now send daily notification of offers to the visitors. If you have enabled these browser notifications, anyone using the system after you can see which products interested you and get a hint of their big holiday surprise. Most of the notifications from the sellers are highly personalized, so receiving them on the browser and following them through can be a dead giveaway.


  1. Managing the buyer accounts – do you have accounts on eBay, Amazon, and Etsy? Most buyers have steady accounts and do not transact as guests since account holders get lucrative offers from the retailers frequently. Unless you log out every time you visit these sites to update your Wishlist, the other users on your shared system can access these profiles and check the products you have browsed.

There is nothing worse than ruined surprises on a holiday! You can easily prevent that by going incognito every time you check for presents, deleting the browser history (don’t remove everything or others will know something’s up) and by disabling cookies from these websites on your browser.

However, the average American adult spends over 24 hours per week on e-commerce sites. It is a sharp rise from the meager 9.4 hours people used to spend online shopping back in 2000. The new digital life of Americans makes it impossible to clean up their track every time they go online. It will contribute to hours of editing browser histories and changing the settings on your browser.

Why is going incognito not enough?

It is no secret that incognito mode does not ensure complete privacy of the user. Even when you are incognito, the search engine can track your movements and so can your IP providers. Keeping all these details in mind takes away the fun of shopping online and almost makes one want to take his or her car out to the nearest retail store. However, there is an easy solution to all your problems – VPN. Visit the Fastest VPN Guide website to learn more about user privacy and data protection.

A VPN or virtual private network is like a private tunnel that does not allow third-party intruders to see the data you are accessing. It makes the relevant information available to only the end user(s) involved in the process. Today, advertisers leverage more than cookies to track a potential buyer’s intent. Shopping for products from outside the country or browsing non-secure websites can get you into trouble.

Most users use VPN to access content that is unavailable in a particular geographic region. It might be due to the regulations of the state or the central government. Nonetheless, getting a pocket-friendly VPN service can keep you and your searches private. It can override the online advertising trends and product suggestions that you keep seeing on your browser depending on your search trends. A VPN might be the smartest way to safeguard your holiday ideas, gift purchases and secret Santa this year!


Trudy is a Business Tech Analyst. He is very responsible towards his job. He loves to share his knowledge and experience with his friends and colleagues.