Posts Tagged ‘Gov2.0’

Which companies collect user information on government websites?

September 10, 2009

Yesterday and today many smart people have been gathered for the Gov2.0 conference to discuss bringing our government into the 21st century, Web-wise. One important topic is the integration of public and private Web services, particularly how government sites can leverage privately-provided social networking, site analytics and communications tools.

The privacychoice system provides a glimpse into how this integration is progressing. By sampling pages on top websites, the privacychoice system maps which tracking networks we find on those sites in order to create a Network Privacy Profile. This Profile gathers in one place the summaries and excerpts for the relevant third-party privacy policies. This provides a composite of the privacy practices citizens sign up to now when using government sites. Click through from this list to see the individual profiles for top-traffic government sites we have scanned.

Of the top several dozen dot-gov sites in our system, here’s the breakdown of how many of them have integrated third-party-served content or services:

50%     AddThis/Clearspring
34%    Google Analytics
26%    CrazyEgg
24%    WebTrends
5%       YouTube

(No other companies were found on more than a one or two government sites and were less than 5%.)

From a privacy point of view, it’s concerning to see AddThis with such a high share, given their relatively weak approach to privacy issues. Also, although it’s no surprise to see Google Analytics making inroads (it’s a great, free service), this comes despite ambiguities in Google’s formal policies as to how user data is handled (more on that in a future post). CrazyEgg and Webtrends present the least concern, since their policies expressly disavow sharing information other than with the site where collected (thus no cross-site profiles are created).