Nearly Half of the Most Popular Websites Use the Same Software to Track You Around the Internet


Image: Shutterstock Remix by Louise Matsakis YOU’RE BEING FOLLOWED
Third-party tracking software is increasingly is controlled by only a handful of companies.

By Louise Matsakis | MOTHERBOARD

When you surf around on the internet, you’re not the only one collecting information. While you check out various web pages, web trackers gather data about you, often without your consent.

Trackers have plenty of legitimate functions, for instance, „cookies“ keep you logged into websites. They’re what prevent you from needing to reenter your username and password every time you load a website.

The problem is that most companies don’t build their own tracking tools, and instead rely on ones developed by third parties, meaning a small number of corporations have an enormous amount of data about our browsing habits. A handful of companies, like Google, CloudFront (owned by Amazon), and Optimizely, make by far the most popular tracking tools on the internet.

A new study published by independent researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis onMascherari Press shows just how consolidated internet tracking has become.

 The study scraped 1000 of the most popular websites on the internet—including everything from Harvard.edu to the dating site for people looking to have an affair AshleyMadison.com—and counted how many third-party trackers each used. What Lewis found was that many of the internet’s most popular destinations (45 percent) are connected to each other because they use the same tracking software. Lewis dubbed the entire connected infrastructure „The Information-Tracking Superhighway.“
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