Privacy-invasive tracking headers a global trend, new report finds

Today, Access released our new report, “The Rise of Mobile Tracking Headers: How Telcos Around the World Are Threatening Your Privacy,” an in-depth investigation into the global use of so-called “supercookies” or “permacookies” to track your web browsing. The results were based on almost 200,000 tests on Amibeingtracked.com — a site developed by Access to allow people to test their devices to see if they were being tracked.

We offer findings based on more than six months of tests about the use of tracking headers worldwide, and provide recommendations for governments, carriers, websites, intergovernmental bodies, and researchers.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Evidence of widespread deployment. Carriers in 10 countries around the world, including Canada, China, India, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States, and Venezuela, are using tracking headers
  • Correlative evidence exists that tracking headers may have been used by carriers for more than a decade. We found information indicating the use of tracking headers dating back 15 years.
  • Users cannot block tracking headers because they are injected by carriers beyond their control. “Do not track” tools in web browsers do not block the tracking headers. Tracking headers can attach to the user even when roaming across international borders.
  • Tracking headers leak private information about users and make them vulnerable to criminal attacks or even government surveillance.
  • Tracking headers raise troubling questions about privacy as new technologies are developed. Current trends suggest that tracking headers will grow in use or will be replaced by a new tracking technology.

You can download an Executive Summary here (PDF) and and the Full Report here (PDF). Web-friendly infographics are available here and here for download.


Media contacts

Deji Olukotun
Senior Global Advocacy Manager, Access
[email protected]
tel: +1 415-935-4572

Peter Micek
Global Policy and Legal Counsel, Access
[email protected]
tel: +1-888-414-0100 x709