When you go online, have you ever noticed that certain sites seem like they’ve been watching every last activity of yours? Advertisements for shoes, smartphones, and clothing pops up even before you actually decide to make a purchase.

It feels as if the internet could read your mind, doesn’t it?

In reality, the internet is not as intelligent or AI-rich as most people assume it to be. On the contrary, it relies purely on data and history—lots of historical data gained by tracking your activities through the years. Your computer knows at which time of the year you will be inclined to shop or purchase a particular item.

It may sound scary, but this is the reality today. And if you know how to avoid getting tracked while online, you can finally come out of the cobweb of being constantly monitored.

Install Reliable Privacy Tools on Your Browser

Before you go with the ultimate solution and start a paid subscription plan for a VPN, start by tweaking some settings in your browser and install privacy tools that could get the job done. They are more powerful than you think and are completely free to use.

Here are some options:

NoScript Security Suite for Firefox: Websites automatically run a lot of active items. Not all of them are mandatory for you to be able to enjoy a seamless browsing experience. This particular plugin will prevent them from running, thereby reducing their ability to track you.

ScriptSafe for Chrome: ScriptSafe, similar to NoScript, also works by preventing all active scripts from automatically being executed on your browser. It stops them from running when you don’t want them to.

Privacy Badger: A popular choice among web users which blocks unnecessary third-party cookies from automatically running while allowing important and certified ones so that you can browse without any issues. This browser extension, developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Firefox on Android.

Ghostery: This is a common solution for all major browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Opera. If you are someone who prefers to tweak settings on your own, you will love this one. It shows a list of trackers that are active and allows you to enable or disable them as required.

Try New, Privacy-Focused Search Engines

Privacy-focused search engines are cybersecurity’s best friend. Google is the most common search engine used by more than a billion users around the globe. The company’s business revolves around selling customer data. It’s the reason why you always see personalized ads based on the products you browsed recently on Amazon or any other online retailer website.

If you’d like an alternative to Google or Bing, you can try out these popular search platforms:

StartPage is a great option as it still uses search results from Google that will keep you in familiar territory but will transfer your data through a proxy service that hides all your personal details, including your IP address.

DuckDuckGo has been steadily growing in popularity and is expected to be the next Google that doesn’t compromise your privacy to make an income.

Search Encrypt relies on popular search engines like Google or Bing to get you the results, but all your search terms and queries are encrypted so that companies won’t be able to view your data. It automatically clears your browsing history every time you close your search, ensuring no traces are left behind.

Tweak Your Browser Settings to Improve Privacy

Your browser is equipped with a couple of features to help you protect your privacy in the device you are using. They aren’t the best ones available out there but you should know how to tweak them.

Be it Chrome or Firefox, in the Settings or Privacy page, you will find an option that says Do Not Track. By turning it on, you can instruct all websites you visit to not run cookies or trackers without your permission.

Using incognito mode is helpful to hide your browsing history and all cookies saved for the session will automatically be cleared when you close the browser. Tracking initiated by websites will still be active but you can ensure your local device if it is a public one, doesn’t keep track of the pages you visited.

Use Tor and a VPN

The ultimate solution for anyone who wishes to know how to avoid getting tracked while online is the Tor browser.

Tor, which is also known as The Onion Router, is an excellent solution in the modern world where corporate firms and governments have been known to impose surveillance on users.

You can download Tor for free and install it on your computer before you go online. The service will hide your IP address and your location, and it will ensure any attempt to find your location is thrown off the trail by sending your connection to volunteer exit relays around the world.

It is used by business people, journalists and civilians alike who would like to communicate or browse privately and anonymously.

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are also a helpful tool for avoiding getting tracked online. They are widely used to safeguard one’s privacy against prying eyes. The most popular services that you could avail are Express VPN, Nord VPN, VyprVPN, TunnelBear and others.

Depending on whether or not your VPN service provider has a no-logs policy, they may be able to store your IP address and browsing history. Most VPN services disclose this policy on their websites or in user agreements, so make sure you confirm before signing on.

VPNs are a user-friendly method to browse the web and prevent each website from tracking your personal information.

Try a Mix of Several Methods

Companies never hesitate to set up large server farms and store petabytes of user data as it allows them to track the world’s population and deliver personalized ads. If you prefer to stay out of all this and lead a private digital life, you can start implementing a couple of methods and start a VPN subscription.

It’s a cost-effective investment in the long run as you can safeguard your personal data. Make sure to exercise common security best-practices when browsing online to avoid phishing scams and you should be fine in the long run.