in WordPress/Blogging

Things you should know before using Sitemeter

It’s so sad for me to hear that SiteMeter, a well-known web stats providers, is pushing specificclick tracking and advertising cookies on to visitors of sites using their service. (You may already heard about this since it was happened last month.) For me, that news is pretty new. Actually, I came to know about this when I read this post in WordPress Support Forum.

When it was started?

Actually, nobody noticed about specificclick tracking or cookies of SiteMeter before StatCounter published this post “StatCounter Says NO!” as below in their Official blog on March 25, 2007.

A few months back, StatCounter was approached by an advertiser, offered lots of $$$, and asked to include a spyware cookie on all of our member sites…we refused on the spot.

You install StatCounter to track visitors to your site NOT to open yourself and your visitors up to being spied upon by phantom advertising corporations.

It appears, however, that other players in the world of webstats were happy to take up this offer…

We were shocked to discover just today that another well known stats provider is allowing up to 9 cookies to be installed in the browser of every visitor that hits one of their member websites. This means that the provider is making money by transmitting data on you and your visitors to a third party advertiser. Not only that, but to add insult to injury, the cookies are causing the member websites to load very slowly too.

But StatCounter didn’t mention the exact name of web stats provider.

Sitemeter?

Eric Odom came up with this post as below after doing some reaseaches on different stat trackers.

I use several different stat trackers on all of my sites and blogs, so naturally, I went on a frantic hunt to figure out who had sold out.

In comes Sitemeter…

I have indeed been able to confirm, on two of my own sites, that Sitemeter is sending specificclick cookies onto websites hosting the counter. I immediately removed the counter and now have all of my sites using StatCounter or Google Analytics.

Sitemeter has gone silent today. Not a peep has been mentioned on their blog, and so far my e-mail has not been responded to.

I certainly hope Sitemeter will confront this, bail out on the spam advertiser, and get back on track. If not, users will be sure there is hell to pay.

So yes, it has been confirmed, Sitemeter has apparently sold out to Spyware.

What a shame.

UPDATE: A Digger just e-mailed me the following information.

The parent company of specificclick.net is Specific Media. This was originally spotted by a Digger who noticed the Specific Media logo on the specificclick homepage, which oddly enough, has vanished from the web.

Another interesting tidbit as pointed out on Digg is that at the time of posting this, Sitemeter has NOT YET updated its privacy policy to reflect the deal they did with Specific Media.

I believe that there are a lot of people who are really disappointed with Sitemeter. I wonder how come Sitemeter wanna do like that. Money is an issue? I think, Money should not be an issue for them since they have really nice and popular service and they also have a lot of paid users. Anyway, they are gonna lost a lot of both free users or paid users because of that.

Sitemeter didn’t say anything?

No. Here is the reply from SiteMeter.

Hello,

Thanks for your email.

The cookie you are seeing is from a trusted partner who we are working with to provide more intelligence to you about your visitors. In the past few days we’ve begun beta testing this cookie.

Over the next few months we will be rolling out enhancements to our service that will offer you more information about your users like their other content interests and demographics (a la Quantcast). In addition this cookie will allow us to offer other new useful features in the future, including tracking Unique Visitors, Heat Mapping etc.

We believe that this new information along with our current services we already provide will be of great benefit to our users. Keep watching our page for announcements regarding these upgrades and changes. We would also ask that you use discretion in sharing this information. We are trying not to show our hand to our competitors.

If you would rather not participate in this process we can offer you a couple options –

1 – If you replace your current Java code with the standard HTML Sitemeter code the cookie will no longer be issued.
2 – We can move you to a new server that will be restricted from the cookie process.

If you would like to move to the restricted server please let us know and we will create a new FREE upgraded account for you. We won’t be able to transfer any historical data, but you will still be able to log into your old account and view your old account stats.

Thanks,
The Sitemeter Team

Even thought they replied like that, there are a lot of people who stopped using their service.

Debbie’s Blatherings said that ~

Even if Sitemeter somehow manages to pull itself out of this mess, I have chosen to remove Sitemeter from my blogs because:

1. That little multi-coloured logo is no longer going to be a relatively neutral addition to sites; many are going to associate it with spyware, and may actively avoid sites that display it.

2. I no longer trust the company.

Update:You don’t believe Sitemeter did like that?

Okay. Let me show you one thing. Please follow the steps below. (Note: if you are gonna remove all cookies in your browser then some of websites won’t remember you so that you have to log-in again to your account.)

  1. Open your browser (I used Firefox 2.0.0.3 in this demostration)
  2. Remove All Cookies (Tools>Options>Privacy>Show Cookies>Remove All Cookies)
  3. Browse this page “Web 3.0: When Web Sites Become Web Services” (Note: This site is using sitemeter stat counter until now (April 4th, 2007. 10:54 AM <TimeZone: (GMT + 06:30)> ))
  4. Wait til the time loading is completed
  5. then, check the Cookies again (Tools>Options>Privacy>Show Cookies>) (Observe: you will see specificclick.net in Cookie List as the screenshot below.)

specficclick - Sitemeter Problems

Note: I have tested those steps above and capture the screenshot on April 4th, 2007. 10:54 AM <TimeZone: (GMT + 06:30)>

Future Plan

Okay. It happened already. So, lets discuss about what things we should do next.

As a lot of people are using Sitemeter for so long, I’m sure that those cookies has been installed in our browsers. So, we should start cleaning all cookies in our browser(s) . (Note: if you are gonna clear all cookies then some of websites won’t remember you so that you have to log-in again to your account.)

1. How to clear cookies in Firefox 2.0.0.3

  1. Go to Tools -> Options
  2. Go to Privacy tab on Options dialog
  3. Click “Show Cookies” button
  4. Click “Remove All Cookies” button in “Cookie” dialog ( if you wanna remove all cookies )

If you are not Firefox user, please read here.

2. How to block Specificclick tacking cookies (Thanks to the author of this post.)

  1. Open the “Tools” menu.
  2. Select “Options”.
  3. Select the “Privacy” tab to open sub-menu.
  4. Click “Show cookies”.
  5. In the search box provided type in Specificclick to narrow down your results.
  6. Remove all cookies that remaining by selecting them and clicking “Remove Cookie”.
  7. Click “Close”
  8. Click “Exceptions”.
  9. Type specificclick.net under Address of website:
  10. Click “Block”
  11. Type adopt.specificclick.net under Address of website Update
  12. Click “Block”
  13. Close all remaining Dialog boxes.

If you are not a fun of firebox, you may read the instruction of other browsers here.

3. Which stats provider should I use instead of Sitemeter?

Google Analytics : Google Analytics tells you everything you want to know about how your visitors found you and how they interact with your site. Focus your marketing resources on campaigns and initiatives that deliver ROI, and improve your site to convert more visitors. (Plus. Integrated with AdWords.)

StatCounter offers free and paid stat tracker service. They also support an invisible web tracker for free users and paid users.

4. How to verify whether a particular web tracker is safe to use?

  1. Open your browser
  2. Clear your cookies in your browser
  3. Browse your site that is using web tracker

You should see any other cookies except the one that you use (eg: statcounter) .

Conclusion

One thing that I learn from this is that we should not just so happy if we got something as free. We should check whether those free stuffs are safe to use or not. And we all should know that there might be something behind those free stuffs.

Another thing that I learn is that don’t do it if you don’t want other people to know. cuz Internet is too small to hide.

References ~

Leave a Reply

63 Comments

  1. Just saw this post. I understand the previous poster, but I disagree.
    Google Analytics holds 40% of the market. I am way more afraid of them using my data. Just look how expensive PPC advertising got.

  2. One of my client site is having problem. When checking it in firefox 3 I am getting the message that google-analytizs.org has been blocked or something like that.

  3. For someone who’s not tech savvy, can you give me step by step instructions on how to remove Sitemeter. I notice there are no instructions for doing so on THEIR site. Thanks very much.

  4. The site’s down… again. For last 3 months or so, it has been giving me erroneous referral IP address (2 to be exact). It has made it look like all my hits were coming from two addresses, so I thought they may be bots — but all my hits. I use another service (blog plugin) that showed my hits were indeed coming from all over and that SiteMeter is hosed. Moving to another counter.

  5. hmm, so this what has been going on under the hood. But can this story be actually true?