Archive for June, 2010

Introducing the TrackerScan Bookmarklet

June 29, 2010

Many people, particularly those concerned about privacy, are reluctant to install any sort of browser add-on, even those designed to give them visibility and control over online privacy.

For this reason, we’ve upgraded and renamed the TrackerWatcher service — now called TrackerScan — which shows you  tracking companies present on any webpage, including key privacy policies, oversight and opt-outs, with links to more detail in the PrivacyChoice Index. Now in addition to the Firefox add-on, we also now provide scanning through a “bookmarklet,” which is a small piece of code that you store in your browser bookmarks. By clicking the bookmarklet while on any page, you can call the code to scan for tracking companies on the page and see the report.

Not requiring installation of an add-on makes it faster, easier and less forbidding for cautious consumers. It also opens up this functionality to all browsers, not just Firefox.

What’s the catch? Because of the technical way in which some ads are delivered, a bookmarklet cannot see every tracking company present on page, and this is prominently noted for users. In our testing,  the TrackerScan bookmark sees well over half of the companies present on most pages.

Even without a complete view, better visibility can take some of the mystery out of online tracking. This should benefit websites that choose ad delivery partners with protective privacy practices and industry oversight, which in turn supports more effective self-regulation.

Please try TrackerScan and let us know what you think!

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Online Behavioral Advertising Checklist: Seeking Input

June 11, 2010

After compiling the PrivacyChoice Index and interacting with dozens of ad networks and data companies about consumer privacy, it seemed like it would be useful to publish a checklist of practices and policies applicable to companies engaged in online behavioral advertising. No doubt this is incomplete, and some of the recommendations may be controversial, but it’s a start.

Your input will be appreciated, either in the comments here or privately by email. I’m particularly interested in input from data practitioners who are on the front line implementing privacy processes. If you believe in the self-regulatory effort, I hope you agree that sharing best practices will work to benefit all players, including ad networks, data companies, advertisers and more informed and capable consumers.

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