COVID Websites Were Secretly Tracking Users, Investigators Find

( )- “Measuring Web Cookies in Governmental Websites” was produced by a consortium of European academics financed by the European Research Council (ERC), the EU, and the Spanish government.

E-governance provides a unique point of engagement for required and vital services for all residents; therefore, it may become a single point of monitoring and tracking for a country’s total population. The report suggests using Web cookies to do so.

The study studied official government websites of “G20” nations, international organizations including the UN, and popular COVID-19 tracking and information websites. It assessed these sites’ usage of “cookies,” which store personal browsing data for subsequent retrieval.

The study emphasizes that web cookies track users’ online activity and interests.

A summary of the research said that tracking is a severe problem, as up to 90% of these websites set third-party tracker cookies without user consent.

Even in countries with strict user privacy laws, non-session cookies, which are made by trackers and can last for days or months, are common. We also show that the above is a problem for the official websites of international organizations and popular websites that tell people about the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to researchers, over 90% of “G20” government websites installed tracking cookies without user authorization.

More than 50% of cookies created on G20 government websites are third-party, and 10% (up to 90%) are known trackers. Most of these cookies have a lifespan of more than a day, and many expire after a year or more, according to the research of 5,500 government websites and 118,000 URLs.
95% of the foreign organizations studied created cookies without user authorization, and 60% utilized at least one third-party cookie. Researchers say third-party cookies “monitor users to acquire data.”

Ninety-nine percent of COVID-19 sites inserted cookies without user consent.

The study says that Johns Hopkins University’s main website with worldwide COVID-19 maps adds cookies from 7 trackers.

All other Top 10 websites are official European country information sites with three or more trackers. The CDC is also in the Top 10 with three trackers,” it says.

The findings come amid worries that Western governments aim to mimic the Chinese Communist Party’s “social credit score” system, allowing the dictatorship to regulate individuals’ spending patterns and movements based on their views.