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Trackers, privacy and visibility on the web

10 Sep 2020 • Alex Harley

Safari’s new Privacy Report feature and The Markup’s Blacklight are two new tools that came out recently highlighting the prevalence of third party trackers on the web. It’s not a nice feeling when you go to a website and see a bunch of calls to third party sites. Why should Google or Facebook know I’m reading the news? Who wants to know I’m clicking on this link? These tools can help shed light on how pervasive this data broker industry is and we as consumers can demand more from websites or take our business elsewhere.

Before continuing we’d definitely recommend reading The High Privacy Cost of a “Free” Website from the creators of Blacklight - it helps shed light on why third party tracking is so nefarious. In this blog post we’ll be running Blacklight and visiting a few popular project management tools (Trello, Asana and Jira) with Safari to take a look at their level of third party tracking. We think you’ll be surprised.

All results are of course independently verifiable and we'll include links where possible where so you can verify our claims.

Trello

An extremely popular project management platform for individuals and small teams, Trello packs a tracking punch with a whopping 11 trackers and 13 third party cookies. To verify the Blacklight report yourself, click here.

Asana

A similar story with Asana, however blacklight reports they could also be tracking your keystrokes and mouse clicks. Any other software that did this would be alerted by your antivirus software as a keylogger.

In addition to alerting Facebook to your every movement, Asana also calls out to Google Analytics for tracking purposes. It’s almost a given that when we browse the web we’re tracked, but for a paid service, does this make sense? Click here to verify the Blacklight report yourself.

Jira

Jira, the enterprise project management solution. Never before has a tool been so used and yet so despised. We shouldn’t be surprised here with such a tool, anything that can be tracked and optimised for conversion, will be tracked. Verify the Blacklight report yourself here.

Summary

To us, this helps shed a little light on the state of web privacy. All this information has always been available, anyone can always open up the network tab of their browser and look at all the requests firing off themselves, but no one does that.

Our mission at Portabella is to improve the web. Baby steps, like having users informed about their data, who is tracking them and for what, can help us make better choices when browsing and interacting with the web.

If you’ve gotten this far and are curious what a totally clean and tracking free website looks like, check out the Blacklight report for Portabella.

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