Software used to harvest potentially sensitive information about users is widespread across the websites of government departments and local authorities, The Irish Times has revealed.
New research shows that almost all of the 16 departmental and 31 local authority websites surveyed had “trackers” installed, which help companies compile detailed profiles of users. The research, by Danish ePrivacy firm Cookiebot, scanned up to 1,000 pages on each individual website for tracking technologies. The worst performing departmental website was the Department of Foreign Affairs, which had 96 trackers detected on it. Kerry County Council had the most trackers operating on its pages of any local authority, with 91.
The results have raised fears about the impact on users of government websites among privacy and data governance experts.
Eoin Keary, CEO and Co-founder at edgescan:
“When citizens use government sites to search for potentially sensitive information their search queries may be tracked. For example, The HSE’s (Health Service Executive) use of ShareThis comes with trackers for more than 20 advert companies. At least one of the tracker companies involved in the HSE site have their identity masked, such as cpx.to. There is no need for covert tracking to be performed on public government health sites. Despite this, the Irish health service ranked worst of all surveyed departments, with 73% of landing pages containing trackers.
Enabling anti-tracking settings on browsers does not always work as tracking companies and social media companies such as Facebook are always trying to circumvent them. Many argue that this behaviour should be regulated or stopped entirely.”