Much has been written about the implementation of tracking cookies, and 3rd party tracking cookies in particular… which are primarily utilized to gather data for targeted advertizing. Some time back I mentioned the “Do Not Track” type feature which, when enabled, is supposed to prevent (or at the very least dissuade) sites from tracking your online clicking. At the time I expressed the opinion that any such feature would be next to useless. Why? Because all it does is send a request to the site, and how the site then elects to act on that request remains entirely in site owner’s hands.
A recent study conducted by Keynote Systems has now revealed a number of telling and somewhat alarming statistics which, among other aspects, appear to confirm my original doubts over the effectiveness of ‘Do Not Track’. The study involved analyzing online behavioral tracking on 269 top websites across four categories: news & media, financial services, travel & hospitality, and retail. Here is a selection of the findings:
- * 86% of the top websites expose their visitors to 3rd party tracking cookies.
- * Only one out of 211 identified 3rd party trackers committed to honoring ‘Do Not Track’ requests.
- * Almost all websites in the “travel & hospitality” and “news & media” categories include third-party tracking.
- * “News & media” sites expose visitors to an average 14 unique third-party tracking companies during the course of a typical visit.
- * Three out of four websites in the “financial services” category expose visitors to third-party tracking.
This from Ray Everett, Keynote’s director of privacy services:
Behavioral advertising, a common use of third-party tracking data, is an increasingly common practice on the Web and one of the primary ways websites fund their operations. Third-party trackers place cookies on the browsers of site’s visitors to track a user’s clicks and path through the Web. They can also make note of things like what the visitor buys and where the visitor goes once they leave.
It all reflects a ‘wild West’ mentality, aggressive tracking companies could be placing website publishers in a difficult position and even exposing them to legal risk. However, the burden of policing third-party trackers falls squarely on the shoulders of website publishers because they are clearly responsible for their content and brand reputation.
It’s nice to occasionally have your own opinions confirmed. But did you know that 3rd party tracking cookies can be blocked via the settings in both Firefox and Internet Explorer? Here’s how:
- Go to Control Panel>Internet Options (or from within IE, go to Tools>Internet Options)
- Click on the Privacy tab and then on the Advanced button
- Place a checkmark in the box next to “Override automatic cookie handling” and then, under “Third-party Cookies”, select Block
- Go to Tools>Options and click on the Privacy tab
- From the dropdown menu under “History”, select “Use custom settings for history”
- Uncheck the option to “Accept third-party cookies”