Analytics
976 members online now
976 members online now
Dive into multiple domain (Cross/Sub) tracking, implementing Ecommerce and Enhanced Ecommerce, setting up Event tracking, and Universal Analytics code.
 
Guide Me
star_border
Reply

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I have a question about this online article relating to Google Analytics:   http://www.snopes.com/sensitive-personal-information-police-officers/

 

The article is in regards to a website that claims they do not track or sell personal information:  true people search .com

 

I entered that site using Chrome-OmniBug  tool and I see a lot of Google Analytics traffic and so it seems to me that they are tracking visitors on the site

 

BUT, I am wondering  to what extent that Google Analytics data on that site could be processed to render something like a  sheet of phone numbers that could be sold.     What is your opinion of the likelihood that this site is legit  vs.  a scam?

 

Something I am wondering about,

Jon

2 Expert replyverified_user
1 ACCEPTED SOLUTION

Accepted Solutions
Marked as Best Answer.
Solution
Accepted by topic author Jon Thor A
May 2017

Re: If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

Rising Star
# 6
Rising Star

A few reflections:

 

1. With reference to the specific website you mentioned, truepeoplesearch.com. I checked what they are sending to Google and I don't see any direct evidence of them sending PII to Google i.e. that specifically identifies who I am, when I visit the site. I may have missed something, but I didn't see any. You mentioned that PII is logged which is associated with a telephone number - I don't see where my activity, as a visitor, is linked to a telephone number. 

 

2. What PII can you see in the data? I'm guessing you mean the page title which contains the searched name (see below)Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 20.40.34.pngTricky - the PII TOS obligation is to not allow the identification of visitors on your site and their activity i.e. keep their sessions anonymised. If this was my client I'd probably advise them to contact Google via a certified partner and get clarification - rather than risk their data collection being terminated. My interpretation would be that these are search results - similar to a staff directory on an intranet - so possibly could be ok (again - not a lawyer; I could be entirely incorrect). Equally though, you could argue that you could theoretically search for yourself - and thus definitely be breaking PII by labelling your session with your name.

 

3. With regard to extracting GA data to a spreadsheet there is a well developed API which will allow you to easily query the GA data. The next step up from this would be to use a Premium account and BigQuery, which allows SQL queries of the data to be made and management of large data sets. Google around for the GA API and you'll find plenty of resources. A quick start, using the Google Sheets add-on, is described here, for example: https://developers.google.com/analytics/solutions/google-analytics-spreadsheet-add-on (you will, of course, require admin access to the GA account in question).

 

 

 

 

John Wedderburn, Advertiser Community, Rising Star
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here.

View solution in original post

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

Hi :-)
Tracking and selling personal information is not the same as simply tracking site visitor traffic.

Could GA be used to collect phone numbers etc. sure if ppl are asked for them and they give that information in a form or something and GA has been setup to capture that information.. however, it goes against GA TOS to use it to track personally identifiable information of site visitors.

 

Thing is, any site that uses GA, is capable of misusing it in a similar manner.


Did you read their privacy policy?

They seem pretty clear in what information they collect from ppl etc
https://www.truepeoplesearch.com/privacy

 

They do also offer an opt out of GA tracking in the privacy policy page

 

Now, having said all of that, I have no legal knowledge/experience and i am simply offering

my own personal opinion.

 

 

Bronwyn Vourtis, Google Analytics Top Contributor
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

Rising Star
# 3
Rising Star

+1 to @Bronwyn V's answer.

John Wedderburn, Advertiser Community, Rising Star
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here.

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 4
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

I agree with Bronwyn's answer but before I accept that answer, I guess my question is more of a question about the software engineering technical side.   I can clearly see "personal identification information" being sent to Google analytics in the payload of analytics queries  (violates GA agreement at https://www.google.com/analytics/terms/us.html ?) :  you can see this happening simply by using the OmniBug tool, and so it appears to me that technically, after analyzing the data from the client side:  information is being logged that is associative with names+phone numbers displayed on the site.   I am just curious about the farming of this data, and was hoping for an answer or a link to another location that describes perhaps how you would write some code to extract analytics information into a spreadsheet, for example.  I am a software engineer, but I am just looking for this hard to find information.

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

[ Edited ]
Top Contributor
# 5
Top Contributor

Hi :-)
you can see this happening simply by using the OmniBug tool
Can you give a clear specific example? Sorry, not able to install it atm

 

I know a lot of instances where PII is collected via parameters on Request URIs for instance. 

if they are using some mechanism that removes that info before it gets sent into google servers for processing.. such as using the option to strip certain query parameters via the GA View Settings (which you arent going to be aware of unless you have access to their actual GA reporting), then to the best of my knowledge, they are not in violation.. 

 

I might be wrong (like i said.. not a legal person) but tracking results of their own site's site search for what visitor on their site is searching for eg a person's name or zip code etc wouldn't be in violation, as its not the site visitor's own PII that is being tracked/reported.

The same applies as above.. are you certain, some method is not being used to remove it before it enters into the GA reports?

 

as for your question -  What is your opinion of the likelihood that this site is legit  vs.  a scam

This likely seems an unhelpful answer.. however, i have no idea, it's not really within the scope of this community.

Best advice i can offer, is if you are not comfortable with a site or unsure of it, do not use that particular site.

 

eta @John W may have further insight/experience that he is able to share

 

Thanks
Bronwyn :-)

Bronwyn Vourtis, Google Analytics Top Contributor
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here
Marked as Best Answer.
Solution
Accepted by topic author Jon Thor A
May 2017

Re: If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

Rising Star
# 6
Rising Star

A few reflections:

 

1. With reference to the specific website you mentioned, truepeoplesearch.com. I checked what they are sending to Google and I don't see any direct evidence of them sending PII to Google i.e. that specifically identifies who I am, when I visit the site. I may have missed something, but I didn't see any. You mentioned that PII is logged which is associated with a telephone number - I don't see where my activity, as a visitor, is linked to a telephone number. 

 

2. What PII can you see in the data? I'm guessing you mean the page title which contains the searched name (see below)Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 20.40.34.pngTricky - the PII TOS obligation is to not allow the identification of visitors on your site and their activity i.e. keep their sessions anonymised. If this was my client I'd probably advise them to contact Google via a certified partner and get clarification - rather than risk their data collection being terminated. My interpretation would be that these are search results - similar to a staff directory on an intranet - so possibly could be ok (again - not a lawyer; I could be entirely incorrect). Equally though, you could argue that you could theoretically search for yourself - and thus definitely be breaking PII by labelling your session with your name.

 

3. With regard to extracting GA data to a spreadsheet there is a well developed API which will allow you to easily query the GA data. The next step up from this would be to use a Premium account and BigQuery, which allows SQL queries of the data to be made and management of large data sets. Google around for the GA API and you'll find plenty of resources. A quick start, using the Google Sheets add-on, is described here, for example: https://developers.google.com/analytics/solutions/google-analytics-spreadsheet-add-on (you will, of course, require admin access to the GA account in question).

 

 

 

 

John Wedderburn, Advertiser Community, Rising Star
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here.

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

Rising Star
# 7
Rising Star

also, and as an aside - if they were my client I'd ask how important it is to have the actual name of the person being searched for in the data. The KPI is probably simply use of the tool and who is being searched for is of lesser interest; in which case this information could be filtered away and thus avoid any risk of PII complications. 

John Wedderburn, Advertiser Community, Rising Star
Was my response helpful? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer.’ Learn how here.

If a website on the internet says they don't track you , what is really happening?

[ Edited ]
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 8
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Yes, 2 things:

 

1. As you were able to see in OmniBug, the site is logging the URL that contains the persons name, that is definitely what I was referring to when I was saying personally identifyable information was being logged.  And each item you click on has a tracking id associated with it.

 

2. Secondly, in the website search results page, every name in the results list has a associated phone number , which means a GA API query will easily be able to associate  phone number with any/every name you click on that search results page  (assuming GA is storing the name that we obviously can see in the GA log query).

 

So, from my point of view, any person who visits the site is basically self-validating their contact information and phone number.   By using geo location info on the Analytics logging it seems to me that a good GA data query filter could deduce if you clicked your own name from your own home location and then use that as a self validation of your current phone number.    Sure, all of this information is currently on the internet but what the site IS ABLE TO DETERMINE is what are the locations, names, and phone numbers most relevant to searchers on the site, including being able to identify you searching for yourself.    Sure, it doesn't validate GA terms of service to display public records on the website, but re-logging that PII back into GA for farming should be a violation of TOS.

 

-Jon