All of these God damned tracking cookies everywhere!
When you surf on just about any modern website you’ll quickly get your information handed off to third party sites which generates tracking cookies. A lot of these third party sites which generate tracking cookies are supposed to make life easier. Developers who want to incorporate modern website necessities such as fonts for typographic work. Analytic graphics for those who see where people are coming from and why. And finally third party plugins such as video or even website gaming. Many of these functions come virtually free or are they free?
Read on if you want to know more.
Analytic going off to third party sites is bad m’kay?
Everyone who has a website including ourselves has gone through this stage where you open the flood gates and let every analytic package known to humanity enter your site. “The more the merrier” is what many admins believe. We went through that stage with Google Analytics, StatCounter, and finally JetPack for WordPress. Truth be told that the old adage of there’s no such thing as ‘free’ can’t be more true to this day. While you get all of these cool graphs and statistics about your website. Well, so is practically anyone willing to pay enough to said third party sites for that information. How you audience behaves, clicks on things, and exits your site is all powerful information to know. Especially if you are one of those high-blood pressured assholes which think that every site even remotely similar is a threat that needs to be destroyed.
Analytic sites and tracking cookies are good for you!
Most analytic sites will put on this “good spin” about how they will help you promote your site. Even show the web admins how good of a job they are doing getting the word out there for you. This is why the tracking cookies are important and why these sites will go out of their way to prove how good they are. The truth of the matter is you are at the bottom of the pyramid scheme. The analytic firm can harvest information about where your users have been. But practically any other website can also scan that users computer to see what cookies they have. Where does the user go? What are the users search patterns? This is good information for marketers and not necessarily marketers on your behalf.
You better put on an analytic and give us tracking cookies or else we’ll damage your SEO.
For the few users that you cannot attract with honey to get their tracking cookies. They switch over to using FIRE! They will immediately go off on a tirade that you better use one of the preferred analytic sources or else get condemned to the bottom of all search rank listing.
Of course we are still of the belief that SEO is utter bullshit so take this accusation with however many grains of salt you wish. Due to the nature of how search engines evolve and find data half of the people online which claim to be experts in this field are only guessing as to a potential outcome.
We want your social network cookies too! Bitch!
It’s beneficial for all of these companies to help each other out in the tracking cookie generating war. After all, the more breadcrumbs that you can scatter upon a users PC the more data you can pick up off of said user. This is why for those who actually give a shit about their SEO score will find themselves lowered if you don’t proactively go onto these websites and start shilling for your site.
Leave us behind and we’ll cripple your site!
While it may be a little over dramatic to say that not having a certain plugin in your SEO will destroy your site. Plugins like JetPack act as super-plugins to the point where they automate so many of the tasks that would take 5-10 plugins to do for you. The very thought of throwing JetPack into the garbage can is virtually inconceivable to many web-admins. Another problem with using the most popular plugins on the planet is that they are also the more hacked plugins on the planet. Think about it. If JetPack can be hacked then how many WordPress sites would that give you access to? Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks. I’m going to do my own research and replace it.
We’re not above scaring the shit out of you either!
Companies like Automatic use a three prong approach in terms of capturing every WordPress site. First they’re happy, then they threaten, and finally the scare you into submission. Underneath their banner and in return getting profit off of your analytic which is sold to the very people that will probably setup bots to attack your site. This may be a super cynical view about how the blogging community operates but free plugins does not mean a company wants to be altruistic to their efforts. You’re simply paying for using their plugins in different ways.
The Akismet plugin is a great plugin and it does not vomit tracking cookies like Jetpack does. Yet, because they are all underneath the same banner which is “Automatic” they are using the reputation of Akismet to push their other products which used to be individual plugins and unfortunately now is one monstrous package which cannot be separated from one another.
If you don’t download our plugins then that’s okay. We’ll just taint the WordPress core with our plugins!
There’s a website out there called “Gravatar” which is what the WordPress community uses to transfer icons and profiles from one WordPress site to another. That in a stripped WordPress you are left with only two options.
- Either you have no icons for people who comment on your page what so ever. Which may be considered the best solution of them all. You can do this under Settings and the Discussion in your WordPress Admin Panel.
- You have to resort to plugins which re-direct images back to your site such as WP User Avatar which allows you to disable gravatar and keep all of your icons locally loading.
Either way it’s kind of shit that WordPress allows commercial companies such as Automatic to inject code into their branch without attemping to scrub any data out that will refer to 3rd party sites. You are expecting that Automatic and all of their sister companies combined with WordPress will never-ever be hacked and exploiting billions of bloggers out there to some nasty attack on their CMS.
I will continue to wave the “shame on you” stick so long as JetPack/Gravatar/Automatic continuously hands out cookies to reference back to their sister site at wp.com.
Tracking cookies and embeds.
When you use embeds on your website such as YouTube or Vimeo. It may look graphically appealing to your audience while keeping the bounce rate low. They hang around your website while watching a video that costs virtually no bandwidth. But you are in fact sharing information once again to a third party site such as a YouTube or a Vimeo. Embeds is one of the easiest traps that users fall into and it almost becomes a requirement to do on forums and other methods of communication online. Truth is, companies like YouTube know it.
Finding third party tracking cookies.
Probably the coolest utility and plugins for FireFox that you could download for your browser is this fun thing called LightBeam. The moment you click its icon to launch a new tab and then continue roaming about the net it will then build a graphical representation of the sites you visit but also all of the third party tracking cookies that are going back and forth between the site you are visiting and the “supporting” websites that drive your primary. Virtually every single website on the net is bound to have these cookies going back and forth. Many web-admins are not prepared for the amount of work it takes to sever connections between all of these sites and just simply accept it for what it is.
Final thoughts about Tracking Cookies.
While you can argue that tracking cookies are not all bad that website security should be at the top of every admins mind. In our warped mind we believe that safety is something that is captured through the security of knowing that no one is watching you including us. If there is some suggestions that we could give you it is the following:
- Always check your plugins to see if they are throwing out third party cookies. If they are consider finding alternatives to them. Remember, just because a plugin is popular does not necessarily make it good. There are plugins which can help you block communication to places such as Google or WordPress to ensure your users privacy.
- Identify where the tracking cookies are coming from. Like in my website cleanup I had to do some CSS manipulation because many of WordPress themes refer to Google Fonts for all of the typographic data out there. This is unacceptable to us. This site does not wish to be dependent on another site to keep everything stable.
- Avoid embeds at all costs. Just because it’s easy to copy/paste code off of another site does not make it a good idea.
- If you are especially paranoid about being tracked then we recommend the Tor Project for an even better layer of anonymous web browsing. As stated in a previous blog it may be a little too paranoid! But it’s still awesome.
End of Line+++