Research from Ghostery, a digital privacy company, found that in 2020 companies increased the number of website pages in which they track consumers, as the advertising industry prepared for the departure of third-party signals from Google and Apple.
Ghostery’s 2020 Tracking the Trackers report analyzed trackers on more than 1.96 billion website pages as they loaded in browsers.
The data compared August 2019 to August 2020. The research was calculated using the number of pages that load in a browser, with data collected by the Ghostery Browser Extension.
In the U.S., Amazon in 2020 surpassed Facebook in tracker reach at about 29.4% versus Facebook at 23%. The company has become the second-largest data collector on the internet, increasing its tracking reach by 180% since 2017.
Amazon trackers in 2017 only appeared on 10.5% of all website pages loaded -- No. 5 at the time in the top U.S. ranking behind Google, Facebook, comScore and Twitter.
Today, Google remains the largest collector of data, tracking consumers on 80.3% of U.S. websites (81% in the European Union and 79.5% in the United States) -- up in aggregate from 64.4% in 2017.
News and media outlets retained the No. 1 spot among the types of websites with the most trackers globally.
News sites averaged 12.9 trackers in the U.S., and 12.4 trackers in the EU.
Advertising has become one of the profitable channels for news brands, with many outlets hosting many data-collecting trackers.
Trackers that identify political data skyrocketed in 2020, and not just in the United States, according to Ghostery. Political tracking jumped 108% in the U.S. and 121% in the EU in 2020, compared with 2019.
Tracking on government websites also rose 3%, while most others like banking at 19% and recreation at 16% declined from the prior year.
This column was previously published in Inside Performance on December 16, 2020.