There are ways to help keep online Christmas shopping a secret. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

There are ways to help keep online Christmas shopping a secret. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Experts offer tips about how to prevent online ad spoilers during the holidays

Looking to prevent your Christmas surprises from being spoiled by online ads this holiday season? Here are a few tips from experts about how to keep your online shopping habits secret.

Turn off cookies

One way to prevent your loved ones from getting a digital peek at their Christmas presents is by clearing out the cookies — tiny text files that allow websites to log a user’s visits and activity — in your browser as you cross names off you gift list. Users can also adjust their settings in most browsers to prevent cookies from being stored altogether. But be warned: this will also get rid of personal information that’s stored to make filling out online forms more convenient, so be prepared to type out your full address every time you make a purchase.

Go incognito

Most internet browsers have a private mode that allow users to peruse the web without their history, cookies or site data being saved. Some companies have developed ways to track information even when users are browsing in private mode, said Vance Lockton, a strategic analyst at the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, but this simple method should be enough to prevent most “reasonable” companies from revealing what’s in your online cart.

Opt out of targeted advertising

The Digital Advertising Alliance Of Canada, the industry’s self-regulating body, offers tools that allow users to opt out of being targeted with so-called behavioural advertising, including WebChoices (http://optout.aboutads.info) for your browser, and AppChoices (https://youradchoices.ca/appchoices/) for your mobile device.

On Google, users can select Ad Settings under My Account and turn off “ad personalization” with the flick of a switch. Users can also make changes to the data that is associated with their accounts, including deleting certain topics.

To manage your ad settings on Facebook, click the top-right corner of an ad and select “Why am I seeing this?” An information box should pop up with a link to “Manage your ad preferences.” From there, users can control what kinds of ads they’re shown on the social media platform and elsewhere through Facebook’s advertising service, and whether their social actions on Facebook, such as a liking a page, can be used for promotional purposes.

Go to the library — but don’t sign into social media

Companies can track your movements based on your IP address, a unique identifier for each computer using the internet, said Ramona Pringle, director of Ryerson University’s Innovation Studio, so if you don’t want your friends and relatives to know what’s inside the boxes underneath the Christmas tree, it’s probably safest to sign into a device you don’t use often, like the computers at your public library. Even then, Pringle said if you log into an online service that knows your identity, that activity can be linked back to you regardless of what browser or device you’re using, so resist the temptation to log onto social media while you’re shopping.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is now on the path to grant degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Problems with vagrancy in downtown Red Deer were behind a push to build a 24/7 shelter in the city. Nearly a year after a $7 million commitment from the province, there is little movement on this "top priority" project. (Advocate file photo).
Little progress on ‘top priority’ 24/7 homeless shelter project for Red Deer

No details can yet be provided by the city or province

Blackfalds RCMP are investigating two suspicious fires that happened in Lacombe County in November. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta man charged for exposing himself in public

The man was charged under similar circumstances in 2019

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, centre, celebrates his goal with teammates during second period NHL hockey action against the Vancouver Canucks in Calgary, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Just three games into a condensed season, the Calgary Flames are already on a break. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
After a strong start, Calgary Flames get early breather in short NHL season

After a strong start, Calgary Flames get early breather in short NHL season

Edmonton Oilers centre Leon Draisaitl (29) hits Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (11) during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Oilers’ Draisaitl scores winner as showdown with Maple Leafs fails to live up to hype

Oilers’ Draisaitl scores winner as showdown with Maple Leafs fails to live up to hype

Conservative MP Derek Sloan arrives to a meeting in Ottawa on September 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
MP Derek Sloan ejected from Conservative caucus for “destructive behaviour”: O’Toole

MP Derek Sloan ejected from Conservative caucus for “destructive behaviour”: O’Toole

Former truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu walks into the Kerry Vickar Centre for his sentencing in Melfort, Sask., on Friday, March 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kayle Neis
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

FILE - In this Feb. 27, 2008, file photo, Elliott Broidy poses for a photo at an event in New York. (AP Photo/David Karp, File)
Trump’s pardon largesse a boon for well-connected fraudsters

Trump’s pardon largesse a boon for well-connected fraudsters

FILE - In this May 14, 2020, file photo, a person carries a sign supporting QAnon during a protest rally in Olympia, Wash, USA. The social media company Twitter said Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021, it has suspended more than 70,000 accounts associated with the far right QAnon conspiracy theory following last week's U.S. Capitol insurrection. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Inauguration sows doubt among QAnon conspiracy theorists

Inauguration sows doubt among QAnon conspiracy theorists

Demonstrators march during a protest on Inauguration Day in Southeast Portland, Ore. (Dave Killen/The Oregonian via AP)
Protesters gather, damage Democratic headquarters in Oregon

Protesters gather, damage Democratic headquarters in Oregon

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden walk toward the North Portico of the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)
Biden bets big on immigration changes in opening move

Biden bets big on immigration changes in opening move

Most Read