There’s a big flap about your personal privacy being invaded by companies doing business online. Have you been reading the Wall Street Journal’s “What They Know” series of articles, for example? A recent study by Forrester Research on privacy of 37,350 people said that 72% are concerned about companies accessing their social security number, and 52% their Internet browsing history. So the analytical guys that we are, at Keynote Systems, we did some digging in our “Big Data” database of Internet user experience, and actually found some interesting information on how websites manage a visitor’s privacy.
Did you know that about 86% of websites have 3rd party trackers, companies that track you online? How about the fact that 27% of websites expose you to one or more trackers who don't promise to try to keep your data anonymized? Ok, so we all knew that we aren't actually anonymous on the Internet. However, this second fact was still a little surprising to me. Now, these trackers aren't the websites that you originally went to visit, but online companies, hidden in the background. And sometimes the websites you are visiting themselves haven't explicitly given these tracking companies permission to track you. Online tracking just happens, at least on 86% of the 270 websites we tested in the finance, travel, retail, and news/media industries.
This infographic should shed some light on the state of online tracking:
One of the challenges facing online privacy right now is the fact that the tracking itself is completely invisible to typical users. I'm hoping that data like this will foster more transparency and ultimately help the online and advertising industry reach equilibrium with consumers.
Oh, and before you cancel your internet subscription and toss your iPhone in the trash let me point out that the situation is more complex than any set of numbers can hope to convey. However, as with all things that involve money, politics, lawyers, and the future, it pays off in the long run to have things out in the light.