News & Analysis

And you thought the Government was tracking you online …

- July 7, 2014 2 MIN READ

On Friday, Editorial Director of Pando.com, Paul Carr wrote an article about a new tool that he installed on Google Chrome called Ghostery.

Put simply Ghostery is an online privacy tool that allows users that have the app installed on their browser to see the invisible web. Cookies, tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons etc, and gives you a roll-call of over 1,900 ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers and other companies interested in your activity.

You get to see which ones are running on the websites that you visit, then make an informed decision on which ones you want to share information with and which ones you do not.

Each of the 1,900+ companies have a profile in the Ghostery Knowledge Library that help users learn more about their technology, their business, and their privacy policies.

What is surprising (or maybe not, pending on how archaic you think our government is) is that when it comes to sharing your information around the web our Government, as flawed as they may be right now, is basically a non-offender.

Well, according to Ghostery that is.

Websites such as the ATO, ASIC and ASIO only seem to have Google and Unica analytics programs installed in the back end, nothing to chuck a protest about really.

In fact organisations such as Get Up! share your data with four times the amount of external applications as the government do – there has to be irony in that somewhere, right?

But before we go laying into them, I have a confession. Apparently OUR OWN site shares your information with six external companies. All of them are social media and advertising related, and I could argue essential to the running of our business, but nonetheless perhaps plugin’s to enhance your website should not be met with as much of a blasé attitude as it appears everyone has been comfortable to do up until this point.

Fairfax and Newscorp sites obviously have quite a few more than us given their sheer size, but even Murdoch isn’t as bad as the Australian ecommerce space it seems. My research found these guys to be the worst offenders of all.

To be fair, I don’t know if “offenders” is the right word. After all, most of these plugins are installed as a matter of habit these days, nobody thinks of what is happening behind the scenes once they are there.

The Iconic has about 29 external companies you are sharing your information with whilst shopping for clothes.

I suppose the real price for convenience these days is a little privacy.