Tracking Enablers: Did You Know About Widget Tracking?


Just this past week Twitter announced its recent changes to service and that they would honor the upcoming Do Not Track (DNT) standard.   Around the same time, a colleague of mine also noted that after visiting his Facebook profile, he notice the company was capturing non-Facebook site visit data whether or not he clicked on a Like button.

Curious as to why this happens?  Well Twitter was kind enough to send me an email and be upfront about their policies, so being one of the few people who actually reads them, I thought I’d take a deeper look.  There is so much to cover, but I’ll just focus on one of the many ways we are being tracked – typically without our knowledge:

Widget Data: We may tailor content for you based on your visits to third-party websites that integrate Twitter buttons or widgets. When these websites first load our buttons or widgets for display, we receive Log Data, including the web page you visited and a cookie that identifies your browser (“Widget Data“). After a maximum of 10 days, we start the process of deleting or aggregating Widget Data, which is usually instantaneous but in some cases may take up to a week. While we have the Widget Data, we may use it to tailor content for you, such as suggestions for people to follow on Twitter. Tailored content is stored with only your browser cookie ID and is separated from other Widget Data such as page-visit information. This feature is optional and not yet available to all users. If you want, you can suspend it or turn it off, which removes from your browser the unique cookie that enables the feature. Learn more about the feature here. For Tweets, Log Data, and other information that we receive from interactions with Twitter buttons or widgets, please see the other sections of this Privacy Policy.

In short – if you visit a page with with a “Like Button” or “Tweet” option, then all those social networks can see where you go, whether or not you are currently logged into them.  Most reasonable people expect to be tracked ON the social site, but not OFF of it.  So as the EU privacy directive builds up enforcement steam, and as you re-evaluate your Web strategy (not just your privacy policies), please be aware that if you use a social Widget (available as a free plug-in for most content management systems) on your site or blog (as we considered doing), you are subjecting your visitors to tracking – and I bet, like me (and the EU Commission, I suspect) – you didn’t even know it.  See the share button, in the upper right corner?

EU Privacy and Social Widgets

Digital privacy is one of the most complex and challenging business issues today.  The more we all know, the faster we can find a better balance between privacy and commerce – and deliver a great user experience in the process.

By the way, our social media “buttons” are images with links to our SoMe pages and not widgets.  We are not knowingly sharing your data with anyone else on this site, however, our social sites do use “widgets” to read this blog and share posting information between them.  

Posted in: #privacy, EUE, Privacy, Uncategorized

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