Researchers at U.C. Berkeley have discovered that some of the net’s most popular sites are using a tracking service that can’t be evaded — even when users block cookies, turn off storage in Flash, or use browsers’ “incognito” functions.
The service, called KISSmetrics, is used by sites to track the number of visitors, what the visitors do on the site, and where they come to the site from — and the company says it does a more comprehensive job than its competitors such as Google Analytics.
But the researchers say the site is using sneaky techniques to prevent users from opting out of being tracked on popular sites, including the TV streaming site Hulu.com.
The discovery of KISSmetrics tracking techniques comes as federal regulators, browser makers, privacy activists and ad tracking companies are trying to define what tracking actually is. The FTC called on browser makers to add a “Do Not Track” setting that essentially lets users tell websites to leave them alone — though it doesn’t block tracking on its own. It’s more like a “privacy, please” sign on a hotel door. One of the big questions surrounding Do Not Track is about web analytics software, which sites use to determine what’s popular on their site, how many unique visitors a site has a month, where users are coming from, and what pages they leave from.