It seems like everyone wants to know what gifts you’re buying. A poorly timed pop-up ad can spoil the surprise at home. And if your loved ones aren't snooping around, marketers who wish to pepper you with ads are. 

Here’s how to keep the secret in Secret Santa.

More on Holiday Shopping

The Marketers
When you shop online, some browsing info is bound to wind up in marketing databases, but you can try to limit your exposure. “Volunteer as little info as possible,” says Justin Brookman, CR’s director of consumer privacy.

Check out from retail websites as a guest, think twice before signing up for loyalty programs, and, he adds, install a free ad blocker such as uBlock or Privacy Badger on your browser.

Want to avoid spam? “Create a burner email” used only for holiday shopping, says Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of the digital security firm Disconnect.

Your Spouse and Kids
To keep your purchases secret from family, surf the web in private browsing mode. It prevents others in the household from seeing which sites you've visited. Just realize that’s all it will do. “Most people think that when you’re in private browsing mode, you’re not being tracked by marketers,” Oppenheim says. “That’s absolutely not true.”

And here's one more tip: Amazon's Household program lets adults share a Prime account while having separate shopping carts and order histories. Want to hide how much you spent on your spouse? Add a new credit card to the account.

The Marketers

When you shop online, some browsing info is bound to wind up in marketing databases, but you can try to limit your exposure. “Volunteer as little info as possible,” says Justin Brookman, CR’s director of consumer privacy.

Check out from retail websites as a guest, think twice before signing up for loyalty programs, and, he adds, install a free ad blocker such as uBlock or Privacy Badger on your browser.

Want to avoid spam? “Create a burner email” used only for holiday shopping, says Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of the digital security firm Disconnect.


Visit 
Consumer Reports' 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more. And be sure to check our Daily Gift Guide.
 

Your Spouse and Kids

To keep your purchases secret from family, surf the web in private browsing mode. It prevents others in the household from seeing which sites you've visited. Just realize that’s all it will do. “Most people think that when you’re in private browsing mode, you’re not being tracked by marketers,” Oppenheim says. “That’s absolutely not true.”

And here's one more tip: Amazon's Household program lets adults share a Prime account while having separate shopping carts and order histories. Want to hide how much you spent on your spouse? Add a new credit card to the account.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the December 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.