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Oktober 10 -10 , 2022 | Virtual

BIFOLD Colloquium 10/10/2022

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.