Celebrating Data Privacy Day, the Internet's first "data report card" scores the web each month on data collection, consumer tracking, and security

Mezzobit's inaugural Data Transparency Index shows the average website has 26 data collectors, with 92% of sites not safeguarding visitors against external monitoring

Jan 28, 2016, 14:43 ET from Mezzobit

NEW YORK, Jan. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Cloud technology start-up Mezzobit has announced the industry's first "data report card" that monitors data collection, consumer tracking and security across the top million websites.

The Data Transparency Index, which will be calculated and publicly released each month, provides an objective barometer for five key areas of Internet data operations, plus an overall composite score.

"How data and privacy are handled on the Internet are of paramount concern to consumers, corporations and government — we see headlines every day about this — yet there's shockingly little reliable information regarding what's happening across the global web," says Joseph Galarneau, CEO of the New York-based company. "This is due in no small measure to the complexity, opacity and rapid pace of change in the Internet data ecosystem."

Using Mezzobit's proprietary technology and data science to scan millions of websites and examine billions of transactions, the Index examines how consumers are treated when they visit popular online destinations regarding what data is collected about them by which companies and how they are tracked. Companies that run websites also are in the dark, as much of the data and tracking technology is provided by third parties.

"The Data Transparency Index should be a wake-up call to the industry that web and mobile sites need much better control over their data collection processes and partners," says Kevin McKean, an advisor to Mezzobit and former editorial director of Consumer Reports. "The privacy and security holes the Index identifies could pose a reputational or legal threat. And data leakage, through things like calls to non-partner trackers, creates a serious business problem."

For the inaugural month of December 2015, the Index registered an overall score of 42, with the following components scored as follows:

  • How securely is data handled: 74
    Sample statistic: Only 8% of websites use HTTPS, a secure web protocol that prevents third party monitoring of data transmissions.
  • Quantity and type of data collected: 48
    Sample statistic: The average data collector gathers 5.2 data elements about a website visitor, with an average of 26 collection tags per site.
  • Visitors tracked across the Internet: 40
    Sample statistic: 11.5% of all sites had at least one piece of third-party technology that engaged in browser fingerprinting, a stealth tracking technology that does not use cookies and is very hard for consumers and website operators to detect.
  • Third party vendors loading additional code into visitors' browsers: 27
    Sample statistic: One data collector was observed loading 219 other trackers onto a single pageview.
  • Visual changes made by third parties to websites: 20
    Sample statistic: One third party was observed making 165 separate visual changes to its host website.

"Data has driven Internet innovation for years, but now, we see brands, publishers and consumers all requesting a greater level of clarity and insight," said Josh Engroff, Chief Digital Media Officer at The Media Kitchen, a New York-based media planning and buying agency. "We think that Mezzobit's research will fuel a more informed discussion regarding the role of data collection and tracking."

Just like a stock market index, Mezzobit's metrics will vary month to month based on Internet conditions and are not limited to a maximum value (such as 100). The scores also are relative to each other, with a higher score representing a greater level of a certain activity, while a lower score meaning the opposite.

Full details regarding the Mezzobit Data Transparency Index can be found at: http://www.mezzobit.com/mdti

Summary: While Internet data collection and privacy have grabbed headlines recently, there are no objective benchmarks to provide companies, consumers and regulators hard data on these activities. Mezzobit, a New York-based cloud data start-up, has examined millions of webpages to compile its monthly Data Transparency Index, which scores the Internet on how much data is being collected, how users are being tracked, and what else data collectors are doing behind the scenes on popular websites. Among the findings are that 11.5% of all sites have data collectors that employ stealth browser fingerprinting technology and 7.8% of these data vendors disobey their host sites' security protocols.

Full details: http://www.mezzobit.com/mdti

About Mezzobit: Mezzobit increases the value of online visitors by giving digital publishers and marketers unprecedented control over third-party data collection and tracking. Our Audience Value Platform acts like a data firewall, empowering digital enterprises to choose what's tracked and shared about visitors, stopping revenue-sapping data leakage. Headquartered in New York with an engineering and data science center in Poland, Mezzobit powers more than 1,000 websites worldwide, helping improve site performance, accelerate ad rendering, and recover revenue lost to ad blocking. The company's founders are former C-level digital media executives from Newsweek, XM Satellite Radio, and New York Magazine.

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