Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Web Trackers Systematically Compromise Users' Privacy

Website monitoring practices take advantage of many loopholes in privacy regulations

A University of California, Berkeley study found that Web users may be tracked by dozens of sources on a visit to a single site. Within a single month, the researchers found 100 monitoring agents on the site Although many of the trackers used on blogging sites are low-level monitors used by bloggers to see who is reading their posts, major companies also are tracking a significant amount of Web traffic, according to the report.

The researchers found five trackers operated by Google, including Analytics, DoubleClick, AdSense, FriendConnect, and Widgets. "Among the top 100 Websites this project focused on, Google Analytics appeared on 81 of them," according to the report. When combined with the other trackers it operates, Google can track 47 of the top 50 Web sites, and 92 of the top 100 Web sites. The researchers note that even if Web users know that their online activities are being tracked, they have no way of knowing how that data is being used. The report says that 36 percent of the Web sites in the study openly acknowledge the presence of third-party tracking, but each of the sites also state that the data-collection practices of the third parties are outside the coverage of the site's privacy policy. "Based on our experience, it appears that users have no practical way of knowing with whom their data will be shared," the researchers report.

The researchers note that many large companies have hundreds or even thousands of affiliates, sometimes in completely different industries, and occasionally in foreign countries. Please refer here to read this interesting research and report on DarkReading.

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