Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stanford Tracks the Trackers

Popular websites share user information, email addresses, Stanford study finds. (San Jose Mercury News, 10/12/2011)

Excerpt: The study, for Stanford's Computer Security Lab, did not say how those data collection companies use the personal information they receive from popular so-called "first party" websites. Among the websites the Stanford study examined were NBC's main site, the sports site Bleacher Report, the Home Depot, and the weather site Weather Underground.

The study found that at many popular websites, by logging into an account or sometimes by just viewing an ad, consumers are sending all or part of their names or an email address to multiple "third party" data collection sites. In some cases, for example, on a dating site, the personal information that "leaked" went far beyond a name, user ID or email address, and included gender, age, ZIP code, and relationship status.

However, Jonathan Mayer, the study's author, said many of the sites say in their privacy policies that they do not share personally identifiable information with other sites.

"From a legal perspective, personal information leakage is a debacle," Mayer wrote in a blog post about the study. "Many first-party websites and third parties make what would appear to be incorrect representations about not sharing or collecting 'personally identifiable information.
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Our personal information?  It's like Chickenman.

Will this federal legislation get a boost as a result?  (The scope of this legislation is, by design, much broader than any item on WLA's current federal legislative agenda.)

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