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Government websites also use cookies without user consent

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Most government or international agency websites also use third-party tracker “cookies” and do so without user consent, even in countries where privacy laws and policies are stricter.

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This has been verified by an international team of researchers after analyzing more than 5,000 web pages of international organizations, information on COVID-19 or various governments belonging to the G-20, a measurement that has allowed them to demonstrate to what extent visits to those “sites” are tracked by third parties.

Researchers from institutions and universities from several countries have participated in the research, including the IMDEA Networks and IMDEA Software institutes of the Community of Madrid, and the results, published this Monday, have been presented at the Web Science Conference.

Some previous studies had already shown the widespread use of cookies to track users on the web on an “unprecedented” scale, but it had not been determined until now on government websites.

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The researchers analyzed the behavior of hundreds of government websites and their compliance or not with data protection laws during the COVID-19 pandemic, a period in which most of the information to the citizen was offered through official sites of international organizations and governments.

“Our results indicate that the official websites of governments, international organizations and other sites that serve public health information related to COVID-19 do not have higher standards in terms of respecting user privacy than the rest of the websites. ”, according to Nikolaos Laoutaris of IMDEA Networks.

The researcher has also warned of the contradiction that this entails in the face of the effort that many of these countries make to enforce the European General Data Protection Regulation.

In total, a total of 5,500 websites of international organizations, official COVID-19 information and governments of G20 countries have been analyzed: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan , Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The researcher Srjan Matic, from IMDEA Software, has differentiated the different types of “cookies” that exist: those of “first parties” which are those created by the website visited; those of “third parties”, which are those created by external agents through content embedded in the web; and the “ghost” (ghostwritting), in which an external entity creates the cookie on behalf of another party and therefore its origin is unknown.

The majority of websites in the G20 countries analyzed install at least one cookie without user consent, and researchers have found that Japan is the country with the lowest percentage of websites with cookies, with 77.2%, while South Korea , Saudi Arabia and Indonesia lead that list with almost 100%.

The study has shown that around 95% of international organization websites install cookies and 60% of those sites use at least one third-party cookie.

The researchers have highlighted the importance of this study and its publication to pressure governments to comply with the legislation and thus “set an example” and be “more convincing” when demanding compliance with current regulations.

Source: Gestion

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