You may know that many companies track your online behavior so as to better target advertising that meshes with your interests and desires. What you might not realize is how pervasive, and sneaky, the practice has become. According to a comprehensive study conducted by the Wall Street Journal, the nation’s 50 top Web sites on average installed 64 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of visitors, usually with no warning.
While this spying used to involve mainly “cookie” files that record the Web sites people visit, the Journal found new tools that scan in real time what people are doing on a Web page, then instantly assess location, income, shopping interests and even medical conditions. Most shocking of all, some tools secretly re-create themselves even after users try to delete them.
One company engaging in such questionable behavior is in hot water, as are some others that use its services.
Website analytics firm KISSmetrics and more than 20 of its customers, including Spotify, AOL’s About.me, Slideshare.net, Spokeo and the news site Gigaom.com were sued Monday on the grounds that KISSmetrics’ tracking technology violated federal and state privacy laws, writes Ryan Singel for Wired. Researchers at U.C. Berkeley recently found the tracking KISSmetrics does can’t be evaded — even when users block cookies, turn off storage in Flash, or use browsers’ “incognito” functions.
KISSmetrics was founded in 2008 and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.