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Tuesday, 21 November 2017 10:41

Many top websites tracking users' every move

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Many well-known websites are using third-party analytics scripts to track every movement of visitors to their sites, a study claims.

Known as session-replay scripts, these were found on sites like Microsoft, IBM, The London Telegraph, and numerous others.

The scripts record keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behaviour and send the full content of pages viewed to third parties.

"Unlike typical analytics services that provide aggregate statistics, these scripts are intended for the recording and playback of individual browsing sessions, as if someone is looking over your shoulder," researchers Steven Englehardt, Gunes Acar, and Arvind Narayanan wrote.

Seven of the top session replay companies were analysed by the trio – Yandex, FullStory, Hotjar, UserReplay, Smartlook, Clicktale, and SessionCam. They found such scripts being used on 482 of the Alexa top 50,000 sites.

Collection of page content could lead to the leaking of information about medical conditions, credit card details, and other personal information, the researchers pointed out.

Passwords were often included in session recordings and sensitive user input was redacted in an imperfect way, they said.

Additionally, the researchers found that commonly used ad-blocking lists like EasyList and EasyPrivacy did not block many of these scripts.

A full list of the 482 sites that were found to be using these scripts is here.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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