Measuring Web Cookies in Governmental Websites
In recent years, governments worldwide have moved their services online to better serve their citizens. Benefits aside, this choice increases the danger of tracking via such sites. This is of great concern as governmental websites increasingly become the only interaction point with the government. In this paper, we investigate popular governmental websites across different countries and assess to what extent the visits to these sites are tracked by third-parties. Our results show that, unfortunately, tracking is a serious concern as up to 90% of these websites in some countries add cookies of third-party trackers without any consent from users. Even in countries with strict user privacy laws, non-session cookies set by trackers that last for days or months are widely present. We also show that the above is also a problem for international organizations’ official websites and popular websites that inform the public about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Georgios Smaragdakis is Full Professor, Chair, and Section Head of Cybersecurity at TU Delft. He is also Scientific Coordinator of AI for Peace, Justice, and Security initiative at TU Delft, Researcher at Max Planck Institute for Informatics, and a Principal Investigator and Fellow at the Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data. In the past, he conducted research at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative (IPRI), TU Berlin, Boston University, and research labs in the industry (Akamai, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica). Professor Smaragdakis’ research was recognized with a European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant Award (2015), a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (2013), Best Paper Awards at ACM SIGCOMM (2021), ACM IMC (2018, 2016, and 2011), ACM CoNEXT (2019 and 2015), IEEE INFOCOM (2017), three IETF/IRTF Applied Networking Research Prizes (2022, 2020, and 2019), “Best of ACM SIGCOMM Computer Communication Review” (2019) and selected for Communications of the ACM (CACM) Research Highlights (2021). He is a senior member of ACM and IEEE. His research develops data- and measurement-driven methods to study and improve Internet security, architecture, and performance, and to enhance Web privacy and security.