We’ve already reported that marketing firms frequently monitor internet usage on branded websites, but now you can see exactly how much: the Wall Street Journal recently published a list of 50 popular Web sites in the U.S. that also happen to regularly use data trackers. The list (and its accompanying chart) includes the usual media suspects – CNN, AOL, MSNBC – but there are some surprising additions like Weather.com and Mapquest.
The purpose of these rankings is “to determine the degree to which each site exposes visitors to monitoring — by studying the tracking technologies they install and the privacy policies that guide their use.”
Here’s a rundown of the Top 10 sites tracking you the most:
Dictionary.com employs a whopping 234 trackers, the highest amount on WSJ’s list. The seeming-innocuous dictionary site is also the only site with a “very high” exposure index. Of its 234 trackers, 159 of them are via cookies, though the site plans to eventually reduce that number.
According to NPR, most of these trackers are innocuous and gather your data without ever matching your identity to it. But still, it’s worth asking, why do sites like Dictionary.com need so much information? What should be a run-of-the-mill word search is actually providing the site with demographic – and, sometimes, financial – information.