How to safeguard the information you're giving up with every click
Any question that comes to mind, Google is always there to lend a hand. Search engines make our lives easier, but a simple online search can quickly make you feel like you're being watched.
"It kind of freaks me out that they know exactly what I'm looking for and shopping for," said UT sophomore Emilee McGill. "If I go to Facebook and sometimes Instagram, the same shop will pop up in my feed with sometimes even some of the things that are in my shopping basket, which is kind of odd and scary."
So -- is your phone spying on you?
"The average user doesn't even think about how intrusive some of this stuff can be," said cybersecurity expert Chris Humphreys, CEO of The Anfield Group.
Humphreys confirms it's not just in your head. These targeted ads are the new wave of marketing.
"No one's watching commercials anymore so these marketers have figured out ways to use this data in new ways," said Humphreys.
In the wake of Facebook's privacy scandal more people are taking their privacy into their own hands. So what's tracking you in cyberspace?
"Every time you go to a website, there's a little digital footprint you leave called a 'cookie.' It's basically a little data file that tracks where you are and that you went to the site and what you looked for," said Humphreys.
You can turn those off and browse in private mode -- but that's not enough to make targeted ads disappear.
"Even if you disable cookies in your browser, they can see the IP address, where people in Austin are shopping for these things, and that's how they can still use that data," said Humphreys.
He said a fix that's getting more common is using a VPN -- a virtual private network.
"It masks the IP address," he said. "It could say you're coming from some other country so it doesn't track where you actually are."
To keep your information as private and secure as possible, Humphreys also recommends not using social media accounts to log in to external apps, changing passwords frequently, and always keeping your operating systems up to date. But, it's likely advertisers will keep finding new ways to target you.
"It's no different than 20 years ago when you drive down the highway and there's billboards everywhere for ads," Humphreys said. "They know the demographic of the town and they're catering to those ads. It's the same thing in cyberspace."