Our internet activity is being tracked and studied by the brands we love and it’s getting dangerous. Read about how brand internet tracking has become viral in more ways than one.
You might recognize this pop-up from a recent visit to one of the most visited websites. I first encountered the pop-up message a few weeks ago while visiting Youtube. Unsure of what ‘scorecardresearch’ was, I clicked cancel and went investigating via Google. I don’t want any of you to have to go to the website because I have a feeling that the cookie for scorecardresearch reattaches to your browser when you do so. By clicking this link http://www.scorecardresearch.com/privacy.aspx scorecardresearch states that you are then opted out. However, when did any of us voluntarily opt in? Clearing your cache and cookies from your computer is the way to go to remove what is actually a cookie that tracks what websites you visit.
Scorecardresarch provides market research data to websites and companies. The way they collect data about our internet activity is with online surveys and tracking bugs (cookies). The data they collect with their cookies includes what webpages you visited, when, the title of the webpage, and IP address according to their website (Beleaga and Geary, 2012).
The original thought behind scorecardresearch and other internet tracking providers was not to put us at risk. Hackers have been masquerading as scorecardresearch and other market research names for the past few years. The trouble is, it’s hard to tell the virus from the cookie if you’re unfamiliar and it’s hard to avoid cookies because the internet is a mine field of them.
It seems like Apple’s Safari stops the potential malware in its tracks, as evidenced by the pop-up that I got. To be sure that you are secure, please check your internet settings and preferences, and if it turns out you have the hacker virus then please do read “How to Remove the Scorecardresearch Virus” (Doyle, 2012). Still, after removing the cookie and clearing my cache, I rechecked and scorecard is still one of the cookies listed. Almost as bad as a virus. Why did it reappear? What I discovered is that we contract these tracking cookies because many of the major global websites we visit, like Youtube, utilize third-part tracking providers for their ongoing research and development.
Third-party cookie operators help brands create a more personalized online experience by tracking our web footprints. It helps social media sites like Facebook do the same thing, showing you ads and posts that are relevant to you based on what you visit and type in search boxes. Advertising seems to be going in the direction of personalization, which is made possible by the tracking cookies.
In the classic advertising model, firms used to place ads with media that brought together the audiences they were after. They would go for business executives in the Wall Street Journal, for example, or youngsters on MTV. But now advertisers no longer have to rely on media as proxies for consumers, because they have more tools and data to target precisely the people they want to reach. (“Little Brother”, 2014)
It’s harder to pigeonhole audiences. The days of appointment television and no internet are no more. To find audiences again, big and small brands are utilizing third-party cookie operators and internet tracking to better position themselves. Ultimately brands want to capture our interest and attention, as well as optimize their websites so as to attract and serve more people. By understanding our preferences and interests, our online experience is changed. A positive to this personalized online experience is that consumers are less berated with a lot of irrelevant and annoying content online. The negative is invasion of privacy. We get asked to do surveys for example, which are annoying, but worse: there’s a possibility that one of the surveys is actually a hacker posing as a scorecardresearch or Pew. Our information could be taken in one click and that is terrifying to fathom. As much as identity theft and hacking are of huge concern by all internet users, a new industry has proliferated in the meantime: information brokering or data brokering (Kroft, 2014). This is where our information is sold and shared between companies. So among each other, the brands we know are potentially sharing data about our online activity and more. The internet has gotten to be more ‘big brother’ than we realize.
I learned about a plugin called Collusion, it maps out whose been tracking your online activity (Lappe, 2012). The New York Times, IMDb, and Huffington Post were the first three websites that were listed when I moved my cursor over the Scorecardresearch node.
Knowing that these websites use scorecardresearch feels intrusive, and as one person put it “it destroys brand image” (afem1010, 2013).
A big part of corporate brand image management is public trust. If people feel less safe or invaded visiting your website, that negatively impacts business to some degree.
So what do you think about this issue of how our information is shared online? Do you think one day we internet users around the world will collectively revolt and demand legal action regarding this “research data” and data brokering? If you have new information about scorecardresearch or any other internet tracking provider, please don’t hesitate to comment below.
Beleaga, Teodora; Geary, Joanna (2012, April 23). ScorecardResearch (ComScore): What is it and what does it do?. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com
Doyle, Sean (2012, November 1). How To Remove The ScorecardResearch Virus (Pop-up Survey) And B.ScorecardResearch.com Malware (Trojan). Botcrawl. [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://botcrawl.com
Little Brother (2014, September 13). The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com
Kroft, Steve (2014, March 9). The Data Brokers: Selling your personal information. 60 Minutes. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com
Foster, Michael Foster (2014, March 10). 60 Minutes – The Data Brokers. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Cty7ctycsI
Lappe, Michael Ph.D (2012, March 13) Watching them watch us. WordPress [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://cistronic.wordpress.com
afem1010 (2013, December 11). Scorecard Research. [Comment Posted to Support Add This Forum]. Retrieved from http://support.addthis.com/customer/portal/questions/3037805-scorecard-research