Many government websites, including those under GDPR’s wing, are filled with third-party tracking cookies, new research has found.
Spanish research center IMDEA recently analyzed more than 5,500 government websites belonging to G20 countries, and found that 90% allowed their visitors to be tracked across the web.
What’s more, more than half of cookies on those websites belong to third parties, meaning they were most likely placed there to harvest visitor data, the report states. In some cases, as many as 90% came from known third-party trackers.
Surveillance or sloppiness?
These websites should not serve cookies at all, IMDEA argues. Not only does that ruin any trust people might have in their governments, but it also allows for “large-scale surveillance, monitoring, and tracking. If this takes place from third parties it is worrisome as it shows bad website design that relies on external entities that can monitor interactions [between] the public [and] the government,” the organization said.
“It seems that despite great efforts to promote regulations like GDPR, governmental sites themselves are not yet clear of tracking practices targeted by such regulations.”
The source of these tracking cookies, IMDEA explains, is multimedia content from social networks and other platforms embedded in the sites.
“Many of these trackers are added because many government sites include links to social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn and link videos hosted on YouTube or Vimeo,” IMDEA said.
Japan and India were among the nations with the fewest cookies, but even in these countries, almost 80% of government sites served them. Russia was the worst, when it comes to third-party tracking cookies, with more than 90% of the sites having either one or both types.
Web designers building government sites “need to take extra care to avoid including plugins for social media, commercial video portals, publishers and avoiding links that download content from such websites,” the organization concluded.
The news comes at a time of heightened awareness around privacy issues among consumers. VPN (opens in new tab) and proxy services have never been more popular, as people look to shield their browsing activity from prying eyes.