Bad Things Can Happen on Good Websites – Including Yours?
November 4, 2021
Types : Alerts
By this point in our online lives, most of us understand that commercial websites collect at least some of our data. But The Markup recently found that even nonprofit organizations—both large and small—are prodigious data trackers, regularly using “session recorders” (including keystroke capturing) as well as more mundane data gathering tools. What makes these findings especially concerning is that the types of organizations that are gathering data include those involving highly sensitive information. For example, the Markup found that Planned Parenthood’s website had “28 ad trackers and 40 third-party cookies tracking visitors,” including those “that tell Facebook and Google if users visited the site.”
How does this happen? While Planned Parenthood did not dispute that it “shares data with third parties, including data brokers,” it seems that many small non-profits have no idea that, for example, by using the “free” version of certain popular plug-ins, they are exposing their visitors to third-party trackers that gather data used to serve advertisements to the user. The Markup found that many of these trackers loaded without the website operators’ “explicit knowledge.” The report found that websites that served undocumented immigrants, abuse survivors, and abortion providers all had trackers on their websites, even though not all disclosed this information to their visitors.
These reports should be a wake-up call for any organization (or individual) that has a website, especially those that use free or low-cost add-ons. While tech heavyweights have the resources and market-share to survive a class action or two, not every organization has that luxury. This is another example where when it comes to e-commerce, what you don’t know can hurt you.
But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this sort of self-inflicted digital crisis can be largely avoidable with appropriate planning and preparation. If you would like to learn about the steps you can take to avoid these kinds of pitfalls, we are here to help with everything from website review and guidance on drafting appropriate privacy policies to crisis preparation and, if necessary, management.