Government websites and apps use the same tracking software as commercial ones, according to new Concordia research

Government websites and apps use the same tracking software as commercial ones, according to new Concordia research


Involuntary but invasive

The researchers began their analysis by creating a seed list containing tens of thousands of government websites using automated search and crawl and other methods between July and October 2020. They then did in-depth crawling to scrape links to the source of the page. HTML. The team used instrumented tracking metrics from OpenWPM, an automated, open source software used to measure web privacy, to collect information such as scripts and cookies used in website code, as well as fingerprint of the device.

They tracked Android apps by searching for Google Play Store URLs found on government sites and then examining developers’ URLs and email addresses. When possible, they downloaded the applications (many were geo-locked) and analyzed them to find built-in tracking software development kits (SDKs).

Analyzes revealed that 30% of government websites had one or more JavaScript followers on their landing pages. The most popular crawlers were owned by Alphabet: YouTube (13 percent of websites), doubleclick.net (13 percent), and Google (about four percent). They found about 1,647 tracking SDKs in 1,166 government Android apps. More than a third, 37.1 percent, were from Google, with others from Facebook (6.4 percent), Microsoft (2.1 percent) and OneSignal (2.9 percent).

Mannan points out that the use of crawlers is not always intentional. Government developers are more likely to use existing software suites to create their sites and applications that contain tracking scripts or include links to social networking sites infused with crawlers like Facebook or Twitter.

No other options

Although the use of crawlers is widespread, Mannan is especially critical of jurisdictions such as the EU and California professing to have strong privacy laws, but in practice they are not always very different from others. And because users can only use government portals for important personal obligations such as paying taxes or seeking medical care, they run an added risk.

“Governments are increasingly aware of online threats to privacy, but at the same time, they are enabling these possible violations through their own services,” he says.

Mannan urges governments to frequently and thoroughly analyze their own sites and applications to ensure the security of privacy and ensure that they comply with their own laws.

Read the quoted document: “And you Brut? Privacy analysis of government websites and mobile applications. ”



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