Why You Should Be Worried about Online Ad Tracking (Step-By-Step Guide to Stop It)

Summer Hirst Keeping an eye on the cyber world 8 min read

It recently happened to me. I was discussing buying a new juicer for my home and when I opened Facebook, it showed me ads for juicers! And I wasn’t even on Facebook when I was talking about juicers. I would hope it was a lucky coincidence but it wasn’t. Online tracking is a real thing, and it’s creepy.

And you might think it’s all for our convenience. After all, getting suggested various brands of juicers after just casually mentioning them is a great time saver, right? The fact is, these trackers gather a lot of data about you, some of which is anonymous and some is pseudoanonymous.

A 2011 study shows that when you surf the web, you’re being watched by tracking networks. They collect data about you and create a profile that can be sold to interested parties and advertisers.

Behavioral targeting is a real thing. It’s not a tinfoil-hat type conspiracy theory. Online tracking can provide a lot of information about you to third parties, including your name, age, number of children, education, religion, interests, and a lot more.

Here is how tracking works on various apps and platforms.


Why Care About Ad Tracking Networks?

Big businesses such as Facebook and Google work on the targeted advertising model.

Online tracking helps advertisers make predictions about your future actions. You bought a phone? You might be interested in phone covers.

And it’s not just about getting personalized ads. Targeted advertisement has given birth to surveillance capitalism , which is destructive.

You might remember the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal from 2018. It was a political scandal that let Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, illicitly harvest the data from millions of Facebook profiles to help their clients win elections.

If data harvesting can affect elections, you can easily understand how dangerous tracking can be.

Thankfully, there are ways to stop such tracking networks from following you. Let’s see how you can reduce ad tracking on the apps and devices you use daily.

How to Disable Ad Tracking on Smart Devices

Disable tracking on your Android device

Most free apps have personalized ads in them. This means they display ads that might interest you. Google collects data from your phone usage and this data is used by the apps to display highly targeted adverts.

Google assigns you an advertising ID and all your browsing details are attached to this ID.

If you don’t want Google to collect your data on Android, here is how you can disable the ad tracking feature.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Select Google
  3. Click on Ads
  4. Find the option Opt out of Ads personalization and turn it off

You can also reset your advertising ID to remove all the data that has already been linked to that ID.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Select Google
  3. Click on Ads
  4. Click on Reset Advertising ID

Keep in mind that Google will track your ID even if you opt out of the personalized ads, which is why it’s a good idea to reset your ID regularly.

Disable tracking on your iPhone

Apple used to run the iAds network that was later shut down in 2016. However, Apple still keeps a number of details about you so you can be served personalized ads. To make sure you limit the ad tracking feature of iPhone, follow these steps.

  1. Open Settings
  2. Go to Privacy
  3. Select Advertising
  4. Toggle the Limit Ad Tracking switch

Even if you turn this feature off, Apple can still collect data about you to send ads in the right language and for the right location. But while you’ll still see ads in the app store, they’ll be less relevant now.

Disable tracking on your Smart TV

When you watch your smart TV, it watches you back. While ad tracking has become a standard on online devices, smart TVs can do a lot more. They can see the shows you’re watching and the games you’re playing. And that’s not all, according to a report , smart TVs can be hacked to spy on your activities.

As more and more smart TVs find a place in our living rooms, we can be targeted by hackers and spies. Here is how you can disable tracking on your smart TV.


  1. Go to the main menu and select Settings
  2. Click on General
  3. You’ll find LivePlus setting. Toggle it off

If you have the 2018 model of LG TV, you might not find the LivePlus setting. For the 2018 model, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the user agreement
  2. Uncheck the options that say viewing information, voice information, terms of use, and privacy policy

Opting out of their privacy policy means that you might not get all the benefits of a smart TV. It’s important to opt out of the viewing information. Keep in mind that when you stop personalized adverts, you still get ads – they are just not targeted.

Samsung TV

  1. Click on Settings
  2. Select Support
  3. Go to Terms and policies
  4. Turn off viewing information services and voice recognition

If you have an old Samsung TV, here is what you can do:

  1. Go to the Smart Hub menu
  2. Select Settings and click on Support
  3. Go to Terms and policies
  4. Disable SyncPlus

Sony TV

Sony TV runs on Google’s Android TV, which makes it a bit hard to change privacy settings. You’ll need to run the setup wizard that you ran when you purchased the TV. But no worries, you just have to follow a couple of extra steps and you’ll be able to opt out of ACR (Automatic content recognition) from your Sony TV.

  1. Visit the home screen
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Click on Initial Setup
  4. Go through the wizard (Make sure you don’t change networks)
  5. You’ll see Sony Bravia policy. Click on Agree
  6. You’ll see the Samba user agreement
  7. Disable the ACR here. A prompt will appear to confirm your choice. Click on disable again

To view the privacy settings of Sony TV, you can just click the help button on the remote control.


To limit ad tracking on your Roku, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Home
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Select Privacy and click on Advertising
  4. Switch off Limit ad tracking

Roku also keeps track of the programs you view. To stop that tracking, you can follow these steps:

  1. Go to Home
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Select Privacy and click on Smart TV experience
  4. Uncheck the boxes for Use information for TV inputs

While this will limit tracking of programs that you view using devices connected to your TV, your data might still be collected for the streaming channels you view.

Apple TV

To limit ad tracking on your Apple TV, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click on Privacy
  3. Turn on Limit Ad Tracking

For older devices, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click on General
  3. Turn off Send Data to Apple

How to Disable Ad Tracking on Apps

Disable ad tracking on Facebook

As you might already know, Facebook is the most notorious platform when it comes to data mining . There are ways you can reduce the tracking but you cannot stop it completely.

If you want to opt out of targeted ads appearing on Facebook, follow these steps.

  1. Go to your Facebook profile
  2. Click on the downward arrow on the top right corner and select Settings
  3. Click on the Ads from the left panel
  4. Here you will see some options for ads based on different criteria. Turn them off

You will still see ads but they won’t be personalized. Also, your activities will still be tracked by Facebook but the tracking won’t be used to show targeted ads.

Disable Ad tracking on Google services

While Google isn’t as creepy as Facebook but it does track a lot of information about you. There are a number of Google services (like Google Search ) and they all track information about you.

google search

You can disable it by visiting the Activity Controls of Google. You’ll see several categories here.

There will be a toggle switch in each section. Turn it off for the services you don’t want to be tracked.

To turn off personalized ads, visit the Activity Controls section and click on Ads. Turn off ad personalization. This is it. Now Google will not track you for targeted advertising.

How to Disable Ad Tracking on Browsers

You can also disable browser tracking to make sure advertisers don’t get data from the activities logged by your browser. Most browsers keep track of your activities and create a user map of your likes and dislikes.

Websites place files (called cookies) on your device to learn about your browsing behavior. You can turn off browser tracking by following some simple steps.

Disable tracking on Chrome

  1. Click on the three dots on the top right corner
  2. Select Settings
  3. Click on Advanced to open more settings
  4. Go to Content Settings
  5. Click on Cookies. Here you can change the cookie settings. You can disallow all sites to place cookies on your device

Disable tracking on Firefox

  1. Click on the hamburger icon on the top right corner
  2. Click on Options
  3. Open Privacy and Security
  4. Select Tracking protection
  5. You’ll see a number of options here. Select the tracking protection changes you want.

Disable tracking on Safari

  1. Click on the cog icon on the top right corner
  2. Click on Preferences
  3. Open the Security tab
  4. Find the Cookies section and select your preferences

Cookies don’t work individually anymore. There’s a process called cookie syncing that allows tracking entities to share the data they find about you. This helps them build a better user profile to target you in an even more precise way.

Apart from disabling tracking on browsers, you will also find an option of do-not-track. This sends a request to the website you’re visiting that you do not want to be tracked. However, it depends on the website if they want to comply or not.

There are several browser add-ons for privacy. For example, you can use Privacy Badger to block invisible trackers and to enable the Do-not-track feature. It’s available on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

All major browsers have their own plugin stores that are like app stores on phones:

  • Chrome web store here

  • The Firefox add-on store is available here

  • The Opera add-on store can be found here

There are planet of add-ons here. Just like phone apps, some of them are for games and others can be used for privacy and online safety.

The problem is, while you can use the add-ons to get a higher level of security, it also lets websites uniquely identify your browser. This concept is called browser fingerprinting.

With browser fingerprinting, it becomes easier for websites to track your online activities.

Websites can recognize you by uniquely identifying your browser. So the more add-ons you use, the less anonymous you become online.

Stay secure online

The above-discussed steps can help control ad tracking to a large extent. Additionally, you can also make use of ad blocking technologies incorporated in your VPN.

Surfshark is one of the few VPNs that helps blocks ads along with keeping your data safe. We have CleanWeb™ feature that makes sure no trackers are able to track you or throw ads or malware your way when you’re online.

Staying anonymous is not a one-time thing but rather an online lifestyle choice. When you disallow a website to collect your data, you might miss some features. For example, when you turn off the voice control feature of a Smart TV, you cannot control it anymore by giving voice commands.

You need to find secure options that you’re comfortable with and then create lasting habits to achieve online anonymity and privacy.

Secure your digital life with Surfshark

Only $1.99/mo. 30-day money-back guarantee with every plan


Similar Articles:

IRL Ads Are Taking Scary Inspiration From Social Media

IRL Ads Are Taking Scary Inspiration From Social Media

There's a simple reason why your new smart TV was so affordable: It's collecting and selling your data

There's a simple reason why your new smart TV was so affordable: It's collecting and selling your data

Practical Privacy: A Guide for Everyone

Practical Privacy: A Guide for Everyone

Vizio Claims Smart TVs Spy on You for Your Own Good

Vizio Claims Smart TVs Spy on You for Your Own Good