Home Technology Your data is likely getting shared a lot further than you might think

Your data is likely getting shared a lot further than you might think

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Your data is likely getting shared a lot further than you might think

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It’s no secret that cookies track everything we do online but, from the end of 2023, it became easier to see just how far your data travels.

In November 2023, IAB Europe (a non-profit association that represents undertakings in the digital advertising and marketing sector in Europe) updated its Transparency and Consent Framework (TCF) to include the provision that website pop-ups should show how many partners’ data is shared on their first page. This minor change went unnoticed by many, although you might have spotted that more websites also now offer a ‘reject all’ option on cookie pop-ups that appear when you enter a website.

The consequence of this change is that it got a lot easier to see where websites are sharing user data. In a report published on March 20, WIRED has undertaken an analysis of the top 10,000 most popular websites, learning that data is being shared with more than 1,000 companies. Many websites have hundreds of partnerships with external firms.

The site with the most partners is quiz and puzzle website JetPunk, with 1,809 companies it could share personal information with, such as browsing behavior or identifying information. Other websites topping the list include publisher Dotdash Meredith (the company behind investopedia.com, people.com, and allrecipes.com), news sites The Daily Mail, Reuters, ESPN, and BuzzFeed, internet speed monitoring firm Speedtest.net, and online medical publisher WebMD.

It’s worth noting that these websites are likely not actively sharing data directly. Many use a third-party tracker and the tracker company then shares the data it collects with other customers.

How to protect your data online

The data shared with these partners might not seem like a big deal, but if you do want to better protect yourself online, it’s wise to read the pop-ups you’re automatically clicking away. Most websites will offer a ‘reject all’ option or the ability to specify what data is shared.

Using privacy-focused browsers like Firefox and Duck Duck Go, plug-ins to boost your data protection, and browsing in incognito mode can help you to protect how far your data travels. For businesses, this data protection checklist can help you safeguard both corporate and consumer information.

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