Commentary

Google, Facebook: Who's Tracking What?

Cookie-Slash-A3Out of touch? Some 81% of Web sites contain at least five tracking cookies, with Google managing several of the top 25 services: Analytics, AdSense, +1, DoubleClick, and AdWords Conversion. Facebook Social Plugins, Facebook Connect and Twitter Button also made it to the top of the list, according to a study released this week. With comScore's estimate that Internet users spend 20% of online time in social networks, it's important to understand that marketers collect data even when site visitors don't Like, Tweet, or +1 anything.

Search and online ad data used to serve up increasingly relevant ads require companies to track and target consumer movement across the Web. A new report from Evidon shows how we all have a tendency to think of analytics tools as "low-risk data collectors," sharing data only with sites to which consumers navigate. As these services grow and data becomes more valuable, search marketers must understand how these tools can collect data.

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Think about the children's tale Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. The Web will remain an open book, and the data leave a crumb trail across it telling the story. Yes -- Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and others continue to work hard to help all, including marketers and government officials, understand the nuances of keeping consumer data private. For marketers, these policies need to restore faith in protecting privacy before they jump in and use the services.

The first five of the top 25 most prolific trackers begins with Google Analytics, followed by AdSense, Facebook Social Plugins, Google +1, and Facebook Connect. The findings were supported by Evidon's Ghostery service, which detects trackers, bugs, pixels, and beacons placed on Web pages by Facebook, Google, and more than 500 ad networks, behavioral data providers, and publishers.

The top 10 advertising culprits include Google AdSense, Quantcast, DoubleClick, OpenX, Google AdWords Conversion, Microsoft Atlas, Right Media, Rubicon, Gemius, and 24/7 Real Media.

The top 10 widgets begin with Facebook Social Plugins with a Commonality Score of 48.1. The Commonality Score defined by the result of an algorithm applied to Ghostrank panel numbers that account for volume and unique domains where the technology spotted the tracking tag. Google +1 follows close behind with 42.1; Facebook Connect, 40.5; Twitter Button, 34.9; AddThis, 18.2; ShareThis, 5.3; Disqus, 4.7; Twitter Badge, 3.8; LiveInternet, 3.6; and Whos.amung.us, 2.7. 

 
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