January 27, 2022

Your Privacy: Online Tracking of Web Users Sees Major Growth During 2012 and News from Mozilla

A new edition of the Evidon Global Tracker Report is now available online (free to view but registration required).

Evidon is the company that provides the essential Ghostery add-on (free for all web browsers) that gives users control (block, whitelist, etc.) and learn about the trackers that are being used on the web pages they visit.

Even if tracking is of little interest on a personal level, libraries/librarians can and should play a role in educating Internet users about these issues. Privacy has always been an important part of librarianship and educating users about privacy on the web is something we should be doing whenever possible.

Here are Some Highlights From Today’s Report:

Advertising Age covered some key insights from this second edition of the Evidon Global Tracker Report last Monday. Key among these findings, the tracking ecosystem grew 53 percent in 2012. This dramatic growth illustrates how the data-gathering and targeting ecosystem of trackers enhances the businesses both of buyers and sellers online, as well as the web experiences of consumers.

Last June’s first edition of the Global Tracker Report showed that the top five most prolific trackers during the first quarter of 2012 were Google Analytics, Google AdSense, Facebook Social Plugins, Google +1 and Facebook Connect. This second edition finds Google Analytics still at the top of the tracking food chain, but with Facebook Connect now at #2, followed by Google AdSense, Facebook Like Button, and Google +1.

Equally interesting, and potentially more concerning to publishers and consumers, is the news that more than half of tracking technologies across the web, 55 percent, arrive on sites via other trackers. Unknown and/or excessive tracking code can slow down page loads and foster undisclosed consumer data collection.

Evidon also is releasing a new collection of statistics, research and other materials via their new Insight Central page.

For example, here’s a chart listing the Top Tracking Companies (Jan. 2013).

Source: Evidon Data Center

See Also: Track This: Web Tags Surged 53% in 2012 (via Ad Age)

According to Evidon, only 45% of the tracking tools were added to sites directly by the publisher. The rest were spawned by the publisher’s partners, their partners’ partners, and so on.

What happens — sometimes unbeknownst to publishers and even some of their partners — is that data is being transferred from one company to another in a series of data “hops” as prolific as rabbits. For example, when Evidon studied Amazon-owned IMDB.com, it discovered that a DoubleClick tag on the site sent data to two other companies that collect it for various purposes — Rubicon and Casale Media, representing a “hop.” In a subsequent hop, Casale transferred the IMDB data to BlueKai, Optimax and Brandscreen, while Rubicon pushed it to TargusInfo, RocketFuel, Platform 161, Efficient Frontier and the AMP Platform. AMP then sent the data on to AppNexus and back to DoubleClick.

Now, some privacy/tracking news from Mozilla, providers of the Firefox browser.

The Firefox browser (beginning with ver. 22 later this summer) will begin blocking third-party cookies by default. This Web Policy blog post has more info and compares the new Firefox policy with what other browsers.

See Also: Firefox raises the online privacy bar with new cookie policy (via ZDNet)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.