Facebook and Google Aren’t the Only Ones Tracking Your Clicks
A report by the Danish privacy consulting firm Cookiebot says that 112 ad-tracking companies collect information about visitors to government and public sector websites in European Union countries, even though the websites are not ad-supported. Government websites are often built on the cheap and include all kinds of third-party components. So not even the governments of EU member states comply with the union’s General Data Protection Directive, which requires site administrators to make sure users consent to the collection of their data. If you visit a national health service website with questions about whether you are HIV positive, pregnant or sliding into alcoholism there’s a good chance you’re being watched in order to be targeted with ads. It has developed a technology to scan web pages for trackers, and it’s selling tools to ensure sites are GDPR-compliant. If you administer a site, Cookiebot wants you to worry about unauthorized trackers and potential large fines for GDPR noncompliance. But if privacy regulators decided to use a similar technology to check all sites for compliance, they’d be swamped and most violators would never be fined. Sure, Facebook has the resources to fight back against anti-tracking technology in browsers, engaging in a cops-and-robbers game with the likes of Apple, according to the Cookiebot report. And sure, ubiquitous Google is the most active user of trackers. But the tracking won’t stop if the activity of the giants is regulated. Nor will clearer rules for cookie consent, as proposed in the EU’s still-to-be-enacted ePrivacy Regulation, eliminate the constant surveillance; they’ll likely just make it harder to detect.