Have you taken a look at your Ghostery tool lately? The little tool that tracks the number of trackers on your Browser’s current Web site has been working overtime in the last year. In fact according to a new report from Krux Digital, the number of tracking incidents on the top media Web sites has grown 400% in the last year.
A related global survey by Evidon, one of the companies that facilitate the Ad Choices icon and service for ad nets, agencies and publishers, showed similar expansion. In their look at who is behind the massive reach of online tracking, however, the company found two clear data “winners.” When it comes to frequency and reach of trackers around the Web, the top five spots are occupied either by Google or Facebook. In fact using a “Commonality Score” that indexes the the actual depth and breadth of its presence around the Web, Google Analytics registers a staggering 398.6, compared to the next most common tracking element, Google AdSense, which scores 50.4. These measurements are for Q1 2012.
Evidon finds that Google’s free Analytics service is present now on 70% of unique domains around the Web. Google +1 has been surprisingly strong, coming in with a Commonality Score of 39.5, placing it fourth. Facebook’s social plug-ins for media sharing are the third most common tracker and Facebook Connect’s login service is fifth. Twitter’s button comes in sixth.
“The market in online data is shaping up to be a big battle between Google and Facebook,” says Scott Meyer, Evidon CEO. And both companies are consolidating their data and expanding their reach. Google is pulling its data together into a single ad targeting platform. And Facebook is opening up its inventory and data to third party DSPs.
The scale of this market dominance by the two big data collectors of the Web will not be lost on the many publishers that have essentially enabled the growth of these two companies. Increasingly, premium content publishers are rethinking the high cost of “free” tools from both ad tech startups and from these big players. Even the otherwise useful site analytics tools often are unclear about how they ultimately will and won’t use data across different sites, the report warns. “What is happening now is that you have Google analytics running on your site or Adsense and that data can be used for a lot of different purposes. Publishers need to understand that free tools from Facebook or Google come at a price. They aren’t truly free.”
One of the costs is speed, Evidon and Krux both argue. As the number of trackers mount, latency becomes an issue. Evidon measured trackers by the ways in which they dragged down page loading and found that analytics elements introduced latency of 471.8ms, compared to ads that added 540ms, while page widgets added 606.7ms.
Meyer says that publishers need to take notice. “What has happened in the last month is that the whole tracking discussion has gone from a privacy discussion to a privacy, security and performance discussion.” He believes that the privacy and performance issues are linked and can be tracked to profitability as well. By taking greater control over the tracking that goes on at a publisher’s site, you are managing for more than just data leakage. “When you solve the privacy problem you drive ROI, because you make it run faster.”