back to article Adtech's bogeymen are tracking everything - even your web visits to mental health charities, claim campaigners

British charities are sharing information about people visiting their websites with adtech data brokers, according to a report. The Pro Privacy campaign group claims that 21 of the UK’s “top 100 charities” have shared web visitors’ data with adtech companies, with those charities including the British Heart Foundation, the …

  1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    NoScript helps with this sort of thing. And of course uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, DDG Privacy Essentials, and HTTPS Everywhere. I sort of feel like I shouldn't have to wear a suit of armour just to go out and buy some milk, though...

    Note: Domains I'm blocking scripts from on this page alone include admedo.com, doubleclick.net, and google-analytics.com – physic, heal thyself!

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Too much javascript

      Yes: got them.

      The problem is the web sites that insist on using 3rd party javascript. I will, generally, allow javascript from a site but do not from other sites. If a site does not work without 3rd party stuff - I go elsewhere.

      The trouble is that the web masters don't get to know about them losing me, sometimes they don't care. Yesterday a web site would not work without 3rd party javascript, so I emailed the company to ask them to 'phone me for an order. They refused and said that no one else had complained about the javascript - I emailed back saying that I had bought whatever elsewhere.

      Unless companies know that they are losing business they will not do anything. So: please, everyone, tell the companies that you walk away from.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Too much javascript

        But 3rd party javascript is great - it make everything much easier to hack.

      2. Glen 1 Silver badge

        Re: Too much javascript

        That only has an impact where you have a monetary relationship with the site directly.

        With somewhere like el Reg, how do the writers get paid? Remember, it's the *advertisers* that pay their wages, and its the advertisers that have their 3rd party domains serving up ads. You could do some proxy stuff, where el Reg acts as a MITM between the ad server and the reader, but that would cost a bunch of resources that are currently unnecessary - not to mention potentially falling foul of some privacy laws and defeat many ad blockers.

        You say you don't want to give your data? That makes you *substantially* less valuable as a reader to advertisers, and the writers company paying the writers gets paid accordingly.

        All in all, not allowing 3rd party assets currently breaks a lot of stuff (CDNs, embedded YouTube vids etc)

        That said, I largely agree with you. I feel there should be mechanisms for specifying which domains are in use for *code* and which are for content - Think NX-bit but for browsers. Email clients (should have) learned years ago that arbitrarily loading/running remote content is dumb as hell.

        Web browsers need to be a lot smarter. Same-origin policy was a good start. Maybe specifying a whitelist? We are already bombarded by "please enable notifications" pop overs on lower quality sites, having 3rd party JS disabled *by default* would force web folks to be a lot less obnoxious about what they throw at us.

      3. Sub 20 Pilot

        Re: Too much javascript

        I have done this for years. Usually if the site is a pig full of flashing ads and other shite and with a load of suspect JS. I will find a way to leave a message to say that they have lost a customer and why. I don't email them as I don't want them to harvest my details and spam me and I have no interest in any crap response they would have. I want them to know why they lost a customer, end of story.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Throw in the PIHole and FarceBook fence, and you've got a decent defense.

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        Don't need a fence for Facebook if I never log in to it... but I am seriously considering a PiHole.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's for charidee!

    Not at all surprised by this. Charities were first in the queue when telephone cold-calling

    became a thing, and those Antiques Roadshow tales of the £1000 vase for 50p are a thing

    of the past now they have Ebay operations. As they are obliged to maximise the income

    for their causes by the various regulators, I suspect the professional fundraisers will be

    quite happy to use trackers etc until it starts to look like "reputational damage" in the press.

    And I still haven't worked out why I have to pay 10p for a plastic bag in the supermarket when

    charities can stuff 3 a week through my door for nothing!

    1. Circadian

      Re: It's for charidee!

      Don’t forget chuggers. And the way that charities are doing their best (worst?) to get money via direct debit - sometimes even refusing cold hard cash (for “reasons”).

      Most big-name charities *are* businesses now, including the high-salary directors with big bonus plans.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's for charidee!

        "Most big-name charities *are* businesses now, including the high-salary directors with big bonus plans."

        Don't forget the health care plans, company car's, expense accounts, overseas fact finding trips, etc.

        A friends student daughter undertook overseas voluntary work for a UK health charity a couple of years ago. Working on healthcare projects in an African country. She was rather surprised to be ferried about in swish BMW and Merc's rather than an old landrover or Toyota pickup that she expected.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's for charidee!

          I get quite cross when people start complaining about 'high salary charity directors'. The 'big' UK charities pay their CEOs around £150K per annum - and don't often have significant bonuses. These are organisations with turnovers equivalent to that of the lower tier of FTSE 100 companies where a million is chump change for a cheap CEO. And as for the vehicles - you a) don't know what they paid for them, and b) seems to me that the justification for having a modern and reliable vehicle is just a bit higher in rural Africa than in Chelsea, if for no other reason than health and safety - road accidents are probably an aid worker's highest risk factor in a lot of countries.

          1. Efer Brick

            Re: It's for charidee!

            Indeed, surprising that more people don't realise it costs money to make money

          2. Snake Silver badge

            Re: African charity

            Showing up in a new Merc or BMW, whilst in an underdeveloped country doing "charity" work, if anything sends a horrible message to the people you are trying to assist: it tells them that the reason you are doing this is to take a significant chunk of the benefits to line your own pockets, to make sure that you are comfortable, before / during any "assistance" you even bothered to arrange for them. It says "We arranged comfort, luxury and big money for ourselves, now let's see if we can get anything done for you here.

            It screams "entitlement" and a situation where people are suffering and, most likely, would really like that not to be flouted in their face whilst they struggle to get an evening meal for themselves.

            In short, in Americaneze: Not cool.

          3. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: It's for charidee!

            Well, if you're going to use "You don't know how much they paid for [the cars]", then I can fire it right back at you with "You don't know how much the particular charity paid its director". The problem isn't when charities provide a reasonable salary for people who control it. There are those who think that a decision to run something charitable must necessarily come with a requirement to volunteer everything, which isn't really fair. But simultaneously, there are charities which don't care about their purpose and use their ostensible purpose only for easier fund raising and tax freedoms while funneling the proceeds to some powerful people. We've all seen them. They include places like ICANN, which really needs millions of dollars from the sale of new domains nobody wants so they can fund their incredibly expensive duties of ... well they have to have two lockboxes for the DNSSEC keys, those maybe cost some money.

            On the topic of cars, you need a reliable, well-built car if you're going to do field work on unreliable or nonexistent roads. Reliable. In good repair. Not one that looks nice. For one thing, after you drive a car that looks nice off road for a while, it's probably going to stop looking nice, so they're taking something valuable they don't need and causing damage to it. If they were able to explain that the car-maker concerned really wanted to donate a bunch of luxury cars to their charity, I'd accept it (though by auctioning them they might have been able to afford a greater quantity of superior cars or even more medical equipment). However, we have no reason to think that happened. Meanwhile, flaunting expensive items while working with people who probably will never own them is in poor taste, at least in my opinion.

            A lot of charities are a lot better at this. You can easily find ones which spend most or all their resources on the specific cause they're working to help with, whose directors are earning a living but not exploiting the assistance of the donors, whose employees and volunteers are different primarily in the amount of time they put in. The fact that many of these exist doesn't make the exploitative charities disappear.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: It's for charidee!

              Almost, not quite.

              I've spent time in various African deprivation hotspots and image is everything for them. If you don't turn up in swish gear, their mentality is that you can't and won't help them as you don't have enough for yourself.

              Africa - corrupt to the core and so the cultural perception is wealth means strength.

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: It's for charidee!

                Let's assume that you're correct. To that, I say this: I don't care.

                If I drive up to a location where medical care is needed in a car that has seen better days, because I decided to put more money into medications, then I have even more medications to provide. I am not there to impress the locals. I am there to provide help. Those who think I can't and won't help them will watch me prove them wrong, because that's why I'm there. I will tell them of what I can do to help. If I know what I'm doing, they will see that I back up my words with actions. If someone else doubts me, they can see it for themselves or hear the reports. In no way does a fancy car help with this.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Pirate

    Adtech needs to be dealt with

    May I humbly suggest a pair of those nasty things that are used to castrate bulls be used for this.

  4. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    Oh, I've got a better one than that...

    In the UK? Go to your "NHS patient access" page (https://app.patientaccess.com) detailing al your medical records. It loads the google-analytics.com/analytics.js, as well as content from googletagmanager.com

    Click on anything llisted on your health record, and it takes you to a site: "patient.info", which - as well as the usual batch of advertising cookies (doubleclick, amazon-adsystem, plus a huge number of behind-the-scenes trackers), it also loads google-analytics.com/analytics.js

    Can we conclude that google are able to link the two? And that google could have a reasonable guess as to which medical conditions you have?

    1. The obvious

      Re: Oh, I've got a better one than that...

      This also applies to all the political parties too.

      If you’re google and you want to lobby the government, that seems like a useful bit of information...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

    For most of them, the charity part got lost years ago, if it was ever even there.

    Now charities are simply corporations trying to make money for their shareholders, boards and executives. Good deeds are an accidental side-effect. I mean, can you imagine the charity-related panic if someone really did find a cure for cancer? All those high-paying jobs lost.

    I remember reading the Comic Relief accounts for 2017 - they paid out £750k in redundancy money after a senior management restructuring. Says it all.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

      I can't remember which charity it was, but it was one of the larger ones, only passed on 1% of donations to the people they were supposedly helping. 99% of donations were spent on staff wages, advertising and other overheads. At that level it is basically a legalised scam.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

        False news- you will get your blood pressure up if you keep reading the Daily Mail. The 'big' charity was that high street name - The Lloyd's Register Foundation. Not because it spent lots of money on salaries and fundraising but because it is funded by the insurance industry to research safety, so gives relatively little of its money in grants.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

          Thumbs down because its true, or just doesn't meet your prejudices?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

      Rubbish.

      If it's a UK charity it has no shareholders, board members are unpaid, executive pay is scrutinised Related party transactions where people involved in the charity profit will have the Charity Commission on your neck like a tonne of bricks. Sure there are charity scandals and crooks out there - but in proportion to the work done and by comparison with 'industry' they area amazingly clean.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

        Come back after you've read some big charity accounts. Eyewatering sums of money get wasted.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

          Eyewatering amounts - like maybe a 3rd division centre backs' bar bill in Tramps after they won the relegation playoffs. And I have read a LOT of charity accounts. Sure there is aste and things aren't perfect - but in a world league table of waste and pointless spending and corruption they don't even register. w

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

            Speed camera charities - the staffing salaries were specifically called out when they had the income from fines yanked bby treasury due to sustained abuse (they worked around that by ramping up other rorts such as referral fees - and the emphasis is on "income", not traffic safety)

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Another reason to have nothing to do with charities...

              Speed camera charities? Really - damm! I must cancel my direct debit where I signed up to one of their street chuggers with those pictures of sad orphan speed bumps. The fact that exploitative twats take advantage of dodgy corporate structures for personal profit does not mean that all charities are staffed by exploitative twats. And I'll see your charity and raise you half a Starbucks and about 0.0005% of an Amazon.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    British charities are sharing information about people visiting their websites

    including those charities that protect users' identity against intrusive advertising, no doubt. I mean, to be successful in this day and age, sometimes you have to break the law (in "very specific and limited way", of course)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: British charities are sharing information about people visiting their websites

      I assume from the .com in their domain name Pro Privacy aren't actually a charity so I'm sure those strictures couldn't possibly be aimed at them. But I do wonder why they want to add Javascript from, for instance, tableau.com.

  7. RM Myers Silver badge
    FAIL

    On Pro Privacy's Website

    UBlock Origin blocked 7 items, and Privacy Badger blocked two "potential trackers". Ah yes, "do as I say, not as I do".

  8. Mike the FlyingRat

    What no mention of Google?

    They already get it

  9. razorfishsl Silver badge

    Which is why I never visit or give money to these ass clowns....

    1. Imhotep Silver badge

      Which is my favorite charity. Full Disclosure: I may or may not be a recipient of ass clown donations.

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