Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Websites are tracking your every move

12 October 2011, 16:37

 Washington - Consumers are less anonymous than they think while surfing the web, according to a study released on Tuesday that triggered new calls for "do not track" rules.

More than half of the 185 high-traffic websites looked at in the study shared a consumer's username or user ID with another site, Stanford University's Computer Security Laboratory found.

Google, Facebook, comScore and Quantcast were among the top recipients of username and user ID information.

Federal Trade Commission Chair Jon Leibowitz said the study would help in the agency's efforts to protect consumers' online privacy and keep at bay what he called the "cyberazzi," likening behavioural advertising and data collection to the paparazzi known for tracking celebrities' every move.

"A host of invisible cyberazzi, cookies and other data catchers follow us as we browse, reporting our every stop and action to marketing companies that in turn collect an astonishingly complete profile of our online behaviour," Leibowitz said at a privacy forum at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

In a preliminary staff report issued late last year, the FTC backed the creation of a "do not track" option for the internet that would limit the ability of advertisers to collect consumers' data.

Leibowitz said he envisioned a system that would be easy for consumers to use "and one that all companies employing cyberazzi have to respect".

Information leakage is a pervasive issue, said Jonathan Mayer, the study's author, noting that 61% of the websites he interacted with leaked a username or user ID.


"Many times, developers are not thinking about privacy issues, and it's a fact of life that information is going to leak to third parties. I think we have to recognize that's just the way the web works," said Mayer, a Stanford graduate student.

The study found that signing up on the NBC website shared a user's e-mail address with seven other companies, while viewing a local ad on the Home Depot website sent a user's name and e-mail address to 13 companies.

"If you can have 'do not track,' you will instil in consumers the kind of sense of control that builds faith in the internet," said John Simpson, privacy project director for the non-profit Consumer Watchdog.

Leibowitz applauded Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple for adding "do not track" features to their browsers and said he hoped Google would soon follow suit.

He added that the FTC had no intention of ending behavioural advertising, but was advocating giving consumers streamlined and effective choices about the collection and use of their data.

"I believe we can keep cyberazzi lenses focused on willing subjects and at the same time ensure the right of all citizens to choose the public faces we present to the world," he said.

Legislation has been put forward in Congress to allow consumers to say they do not want to be tracked, but it has found little traction thus far.

- Reuters


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Leave ODM if you are unhappy, Rai...

Leave ODM if you are not happy, Raila Odinga tells Senator. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Former Assistant Minister joins J...

A former Assistant Minister has quit PNU and joined the Jubilee Party. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
DP Ruto intervenes as Kerio Valle...

DP William Ruto will visit Kerio Valley to try solve never-ending clashes between local residents. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
ODM MP chased down by angry Kibra...

Kibra MP Ken Okoth had a hard time in his constituency after angry youth pelted him with stones. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Prepare for DP Ruto fight in 2022...

An MP has warned that the Kalenjin Community will not stand back and watch as DP Ruto is duped ahead of the 2022 polls. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Be careful who you deal with, DP ...

Watch out for your political future, DP William Ruto has been warned. Read more...