Web Bugs Continue to Infest the Net. (Tech Talk)

Article excerpt

Privacy advocates have been raising the alarm over Web bugs, which are invisible GIFs that can collect information about Web site visitors without their knowledge (see "Cleaning Up Data Spills," "Tech Talk," May). So with all the negative publicity, most e-commerce operators must have exterminated those pesky pests, right?

Not so, according to Internet intelligence company Cyveillance. Comparing a random sample of Internet pages archived in July 1998 with another set collected in July 2001--more than one million pages of data--Cyveillance researchers discovered that there has been a 488 percent increase in the use of Web bugs. In 1998, 0.664 percent of Web pages contained bugs; in 2001, almost 4 percent did.

The study revealed a close correlation between pages with Web bugs and the presence of leading brand names. More than 95 percent of the pages with bugs also contained a top 50 brand name, up from just over 64 percent three years earlier.

Another factor behind the increase in hugs was their prevalence on personal Web pages; in fact, the research indicates that Web bug presence is higher on personal pages than it is for commercial sites. …