Watch out for privacy violations: You are being tracked by your fovourite websites

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the seriesonline privacy

How many websites do you visit every day now. You must be checking your email. That used to be the primary function for most of the internet users in the early days of the internet. If I could go by the fact that you are reading this blog post, instead of reading some printed technology magazine, you are most likely to check the daily news online as well. Let me make another guess now.

So, do you think the news websites most visited by the internet generation are the ones that were the most popular when there was not internet. Yes, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and let us also consider the Financial Times for the sake of taking a European news paper. Now, all of these newspapers have their websites and have paid subscriptions as well as free content for their readers.

The most loyal readers visit these websites almost everyday without fail. The reason, they trust these sources of news. These websites most likely are responsible for the world view of their readers. In some cases, people trust the news papers more than they trust the television news. (Well, I cannot explain why, but it is true for some people), including yours truly.

But, why am I writing this article? It is all about faith and trust, isn’t it? Yes, it is, and precisely that is the reason for this article to exist today. These websites are, if I use the appropriate words, misusing the trust of their readers and invading their privacy.

The Financial Times uses trackers on their website

Financial Times  - FT tracker websites
Financial Times – FT tracker websites

As we can see from the screenshot above, the FT website has about 12 to 13 trackers most for the times you log in to the website. There are so many questions that come to the mind:

  • What is the reason for these websites to be tracking your visits?
  • What data do these website trackers track?
  • Do they compromise your privacy?
  • Are they able to access data from your visits to other websites using the same browser?

There can be many other possibilities. It is a widely known fact that websites use cookies to track visitors to identify if they are first time visitors, their location etc. to be able to serve those repeat visitors in better ways. This is not the only news website that tracks your visits. There are others, and the situation can be worse.

For example: –

The Wall Street Journal Tracks its visitors

Wall Street Journal  - WSJ - tracker websites
Wall Street Journal – WSJ – tracker websites

The number of trackers on the WSJ is 14. It keeps fluctuating from 11 to more than 15 sometimes. The question is, do they use this information just for the purpose of making your subsequent visits more worthwhile, or it is used for some other purposes.

The New York Times tracks your every move on their website

The New York Times tracker websites
The New York Times tracker websites

Why should the NYT track its visitors from around the world. Does it all boil down to only advertising. Contextual advertising requires only the content on the web page that is being visited, and maybe sometimes the location of the visitor. So, do these websites only track your location and the content you visit, or do they track other things that you would not like shared with a third part.

Reuters tracks your every visit

Reuters tracks your visits
Reuters tracks your visits

 

If you thought it was only the news websites that track your visits, then you could not be more wrong. Reuters are the power house of all new publishing media. They are the back end of the news media networks. They bring the news to you from around each and every corner of the world.  So, does all this effort they make, gives them to right to measure and track all your activity while you visit their pages?

The biggest question in all of the above cases is, who is tracking you. In most of the cases, the websites that you visit are not the only ones who track your visits. There are a whole lot of websites, that are authorized by the NY Times, Reuters, The WSJ, and the Financial Times to track each and every move you make. But, should they be allowed to do it. And, if they are allowed, what purposes should they be using this data for.

These are a few questions, that need to be answered.

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