Web firms could be bugging you

Every click you make, they'll be watching you...
Written by Chris Holbrook, Contributor on

Every click you make, they'll be watching you...

Invisible data collection bugs, which gather information on every single move you make online, have spawned in use over the past few years. The use of web bugs has jumped 488 per cent in the past three years, according to research of over 1m web pages by Cyveillance International. The study found eight of the top 50 brands do have privacy policies that state data will not be passed on without a users consent, whilst most sites openly collect data for swapping with third parties. The micro-sized bugs are embedded in graphics such as news-tickers and banner adverts. The bugs collate data through transactions, which often contain in-depth, personal information. Andrew Muir, MD for Cyveillance International, said the covert way in which these bugs are used raises privacy issues. Muir added: "Its hard to earn back a customer's trust if this kind of thing is being done without permission. If people knew what was being done to them they would shift away from the brands who do." Ian Brown, technology policy adviser with Privacy International, said European privacy laws are much tougher than in the US. He said that if users don't know the bugs are there and if firms are exchanging personal information against the consumer's wishes, then there are certainly data protection issues. Brown said personal profiling is an issue waiting to erupt, adding: "I wouldn't be surprised to see Europeans getting angry about it and filing lawsuits. He concluded: "I wouldn't be surprised if programs that watch for bugs are built into the next generation browsers, to inform users when they were being watched. Perhaps it might lead to a black list of sites that use them." For those of you who are intrigued as to who is processing every click you make, you can download special software from www.bugnosis.org.
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