Is this computer advertisement following me?

Dear Heloise: After I searched for a particular handbag online, I then started noticing advertisements for that handbag on my social media pages and my email homepage. Kinda creepy! What gives? — Sarah T., Bozeman, Mont.

Sarah, no, there’s not a little man inside your computer, but there might as well be. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s called targeted or interest-based advertising.

One type of online tracking that companies use is called “cookies.” The site you visited wants to tailor your online surfing to things you like, respond to and ultimately buy, so the site places a cookie (a bit of data, kind of like a digital bookmark) on your computer to mark that site.

You can disable cookies under your “Tools” button, but be aware: Some sites may require you to have cookies enabled.

Check out the FTC’s website (www.ftc.gov) for more information. — Heloise

(Heloise is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. Send money-or time-saving hint to P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or E-Mail: Heloise@Heloise.com.)

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