VPN services are highly effective at protecting various aspects of your personal security and privacy.
Hiding your IP address and obscuring your online activity from the view of prying eyes protects you from many online threats.
Some VPNs even claim to stop targeted ads completely. How accurate is this claim, though? Will a VPN stop targeted ads? Let’s find out.
A good VPN will try to block the trackers that advertising platforms use to track your online activity and show you targeted ads. These attempts are not always effective since tracking technology is constantly evolving. Trackers and cookies that you already have on your device will still be active.
So a VPN on its own will never be 100% effective at blocking ads completely. There are too many variables that a VPN simply cannot predict or has no power over.
But when you combine an ad-blocking VPN with some other measures of your own, you can significantly decrease the number of targeted ads you see. Let’s look at what a VPN does and what you can do to block targeted ads.
What A VPN Does To Stop Targeted Ads
Online advertising agencies use a few different methods to track your online activity, thereby determining your interests and then showing you ads explicitly targeted to you based on your interest profile. These tracking methods range from cookies to IP address logging.
A VPN keeps you anonymous and hides your online activity. It does this through a combination of acting as a proxy, thereby replacing your IP address with its own, and encrypting your internet connection so that not even your ISP can see what you’re doing online.
Considering this, it’s clear that a VPN will effectively block IP address targeting ads. Unfortunately, that system is outdated, and very few advertising platforms still use it.
When it comes to cookies, there are varying levels of effectiveness. Since the VPN server acts as a proxy, all your data goes through this server, and the data packets must be analyzed for the encryption process.
Some VPN providers remove all cookies and ad tracker code from your data packets while this happens.
This can be pretty effective, but you will lose some convenience in the process. Those same cookies that are used to serve us targeted ads are also the ones that ensure that we don’t have to log in every time we go back to Google or Facebook.
So a VPN that blocks these cookies will stop targeted ads, at least to some extent, but we will sacrifice some convenience in the process.
Why A VPN May Not Be Able To Stop Targeted Ads
A few things could cause targeted ads and ad trackers to slip through the cracks, even when you’re using a VPN.
Some VPNs Serve Targeted Ads Themselves
VPNs are, by their very nature, an unregulated industry. This means that some VPNs have more malicious intent than they pretend to have.
There have been cases where VPNs blocked ad trackers but then served their own ads to their users instead.
These VPNs are not common. Most of the well-known VPNs today have been tested by time and circumstances and proven to be reliable and true to their word, at least for the most part.
But watch out for newcomers or claims that are too good to be true, and be especially wary of free VPNs.
Their profit has to come from somewhere, and targeted ads are often the most logical option.
Existing Cookies And Trackers Cannot Be Blocked
When you get a new VPN that promises to block targeted ads, but you use it with your regular browser on the same device that you’ve been using for months, you are in for a disappointment.
A VPN filters and manipulates incoming and outgoing internet data, but it does nothing to the data on your device itself (or, at least, it shouldn’t).
If you have cookies and trackers that are already active in your web browser’s cache, websites can still serve you targeted ads based on these cookies regardless of the VPN. No VPN will block those trackers.
Accounts That You’re Logged Into
This is related to the previous point of existing cookies, but it is such a significant and commonly overlooked factor that it bears mentioning on its own.
Most of us are constantly logged in to some of our accounts, like Google or Gmail, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram, or others.
When you connect through a VPN, that service may detect that you’re browsing from an IP address in a different country, but your tracking ID will still be active.
Google and Facebook both have tracking codes that web developers build into their websites.
When you access these websites while you are logged into any Google or Facebook services, a VPN will not be able to block those trackers, and you will still be tracked and served targeted ads.
How To Help Your VPN Block Targeted Ads (3 Ways)
There is good news that, even though your VPN cannot stop all targeted ads, you can implement some things to help it.
It’s possible that no measures will ever be completely effective since ads and trackers are constantly developing and evolving. Still, you can limit their impact considerably by following a few additional guidelines along with using an ad-blocking VPN.
Regularly Clear Your Cookies And Web History
It’s a good idea to entirely clear out your browser history and cache from time to time. When you do this, be sure to tick the box to delete cookies as well.
This will remove all trackers that are present on your device at that time.
Be mindful that this will also log you out of all websites, including any Google and Facebook services.
You may also lose any products you added to a shopping cart on online shopping or eCommerce websites. But if online privacy is a priority to you, this is a small price to pay.
Use Ad Blocking Software
This is something to handle with care since some ad blockers border on malware themselves, and some have even been found harvesting personal information for their creators.
But well-reviewed ad blockers are effective at blocking ad trackers and blocking targeted ads completely. Especially ones that you can simply install as add-ons to your web browser.
Use A Privacy-Focused Web Browser
Modern browsers all claim to take your privacy seriously, but some are better at that than others in practice.
The new Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple’s Safari all have advanced tracker blocking technology built-in, so they are suitable for general use if you install ad blockers with them.
Many of these features are disabled by default, so it’s good to search through their settings.
But there are even better options, like the Brave browser. Brave is one of the most privacy-focused browsers on the market today, with most of its tracker-blocking features enabled by default.
It is a reliable and effective option to go for, especially when combined with a robust and reliable VPN service.
VPNs often make claims that they cannot fully back up. We are all so overwhelmed by the increasing cybercrime statistics and online advertising and privacy concerns that we will jump at any solution that could help us, and some VPN providers abuse this fact.
However, a good VPN is still better than having no solution at all, and with some added effort, you can almost eradicate targeted ads.