Report: Websites React to Tracking Tools

By Cindy Waxer November 09, 2010

In a move that should please privacy advocates, an increasing number of major websites are limiting the number of tracking technologies such as “cookies” spreading on their sites, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Rather than permitting software to furtively monitor people’s online activities, more sites are keeping tabs on the tracking tools that are being planted on the computers of people who visit those sites, the Journal reveals.

In fact, while some are dropping companies that install tracking tools, other Internet entities are attempting to sell more ads themselves rather than rely on online ad networks that install tracking software. For example, the Journal points to the Huffington Post site which recently removed technology from ad firm Lotame, Inc., after the Journal reported that Lotame was analyzing comments on the site.

Internet publishers aren’t the only ones getting fed up with online tracking tools that operate clandestinely. Consumers are also sick and tired of snooping software. In October, consumers cried foul what it was revealed that Facebook’s top 10 applications were transmitting data that can be used to identify users to advertising and Internet-tracking firms. That’s in violation of the popular social network’s own privacy policies and has raised doubts about Facebook’s ability to protect confidential information concerning its users’ online activities and preferences.

In response, Facebook confirmed that some popular third-party applications are transmitting identifying information about users to advertising and Internet tracking companies. "In most cases, developers did not intend to pass this information, but did so because of the technical details of how browsers work," Facebook engineer Mike Vernal said in a blog post. "We are talking with our key partners and the broader Web community about possible solutions."

A Krux Digital study found that nearly a third of the tracking tools on 50 popular U.S. websites were installed by companies that gained access to the site without the publisher's permission. On average, visiting a single page on those sites resulted in 10 trackers being installed or updated on the visitor's computer.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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