New research has revealed that social media websites have the biggest number of trackers, which can collect and monetize users’ data.
In sum, 2,500 websites were studied from 25 countries around the world. Using three different tracker blockers, they could see how many trackers (such as a cookie or a tracking pixel) those websites use to know more about their users.
The research conducted by a cybersecurity company called NordVPN shows that on average, websites have 48 trackers but social media have about 160 trackers on average.
Followed by health websites have 46 trackers per website and then digital media with an average of 28 trackers.
The sites that are least tracked are pornography, with four trackers and government websites with one tracker.
The research noted that third parties owned the trackers with Google owning about 30%, 11% to Facebook and 7% to Adobe.
“These companies later use collected data for marketing purposes,” read a statement in the research.
A Digital Privacy Expert at NordVPN, Daniel Markuson said data-protection laws in a country determine the number of website trackers.
“That is why in Central and Northern Europe, where GDPR rules are applied, websites have fewer trackers. However, the situation is completely different in the USA, where no singular law covers the privacy of all types of data in all states,” noted Mr Markuson.
According to data protection and cyber laws of Kenya, “Data controller or data processor may share or exchange personal data collected if requested in writing by another data controller, data processor, third party or a data subject.”
“The written request for data sharing must specify the purpose for which the personal data is required, the duration it will be retained, and proof of safeguards in place to secure the personal data. Under the Regulations, upon such a request, the providing data controller or data processor is required to enter into a data-sharing agreement with the requesting party.”
According to the findings of the research, the trackers are dangerous as they are usually inserted into the code of websites and are difficult to detect for a regular user.
“The kinds of information trackers collect can include IP address and location, browsing history, a user’s clicks on a website, and what items they looked at and for how long as well as the data about the browser and device they’re using.”
Website admins rely on the trackers to improve users’ experience. The information gathered about the user is then used to create a profile sold to third parties, who use it to serve more targeted and intrusive ads that follow users from website to website.
“The worst case scenario is if cyber criminals get their hands on this data. They could compile a detailed portfolio about someone and use it against them in a phishing attack by crafting a highly personalized and believable message,” the researchers warned.
According to a survey by NordVPN, 47% of users worry about being tracked by social media giants (like Facebook), 39% by information and advertising aggregators (like Google), and 38% don’t want marketing agencies to get hold of their data.
However, the research outlined various ways one can avoid tracking.
One can use a VPN to hide their real IP address and location from all third parties, including your ISP, cyber criminals, network administrators, and advertisers.
Install a tracker blocker to stop your browser from collecting information about you and may also work as an ad blocker.
Use privacy browsers tailored for people with online privacy in mind: no auto-syncing, no spell-check, no auto-fill, and no plug-ins.
The research claimed that Google tracks a lot of data about you and to avoid that, you’ll have to opt for other email providers and search engines.