Cookie Crunching May Be Pumping Up Web Traffic

Apr 17, 2007

Internet cookies might not be as reliable an indicator of distinct Web site visitors as previously thought, according to a Monday report from Internet research company comScore.

A growing number of Internet users have taken to erasing their computer's cookies, which are unique identifiers inserted on a user's computer that reveal what Web sites someone has visited. While this might not seem like a catastrophic event, the deletion of these cookies could lead to inflated traffic reports for a particular Web site, according to the report.

Each time a user visits a Web site for the first time that Web site deposits a virtual checkmark, or cookie, onto the user's computer. That cookie prevents the Web site from cataloging repeat visits from the same user, thereby creating a more accurate count of new visitors to a particular online venue. If a user's cookies have been erased, however, that person's computer is registered as a new user when they visit a Web site, even if they have been there hundreds of times before.

ComScore evaluated a first-party Web site and a third party ad server that each receives more than 100 million hits each month.

Researchers found that 31 percent of U.S. Internet users erased their first-party cookies over the course of the month. As a result, Web sites could be inflating their web traffic by as much as 150 percent, according to comScore.

"These 'serial resetters' have the potential to wildly inflate a site's internal unique visitor tally, because just one set of 'eyeballs' at the site may be counted as 10 or more unique visitors over the course of a month," said Magid Abraham, president and chief executive of comScore, in a statement. "The result is a highly inflated estimate of unique visitors for sites that rely on cookies to count their audience."

Report authors found similar totals on the third-party ad server, with approximately 27 percent of users clearing their cookies at least once a month.

Many people think third-party cookies are deleted more often than first-party cookies because "many PC users reset or delete their cookies using security protection programs," Abraham said. "But these findings suggest that selective cookie management is not prevalent."

Comscore officials were not immediately available for comment.

Copyright 2007 by Ziff Davis Media, Distributed by United Press International

Explore further: Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lightbeam from Mozilla shines light on online tracking

Oct 26, 2013

(Phys.org) —Marketing professionals often tell the public that tracking Website visitors has its positive side. After all, businesses offering services can transform the data they collect to produce more ...

CRIME attack is shown to decrypt HTTPS web sessions

Sep 14, 2012

(Phys.org)—The fun of acronyms is reflected in coming up with CRIME, which stands for Compression Ratio Info-leak Made Easy. What it translates into, though, is not much fun. Two security researchers have ...

WOWD, the real-time search engine

Oct 26, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The beta version of WOWD, the Internet's newest search engine, was launched last week at the 2009 Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. It aims to differentiate itself from other search engines ...

YouTube Limits Cookie Tracking on White House Website

Jan 23, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With the launch of President Obama's White House website, three days ago, there has been extensive use of YouTube videos on the site. As we all know Google now owns YouTube and tracks every vi ...

Google is unlikely to avoid UK courts on privacy

Dec 19, 2013

The question of accountability under national law for the wrongs committed by international companies has been debated and litigated for many years in many different courts and across many different countries. ...

Recommended for you

Twitter rules out Turkey office amid tax row

10 hours ago

Social networking company Twitter on Wednesday rejected demands from the Turkish government to open an office there, following accusations of tax evasion and a two-week ban on the service.

How does false information spread online?

13 hours ago

Last summer the World Economic Forum (WEF) invited its 1,500 council members to identify top trends facing the world, including what should be done about them. The WEF consists of 80 councils covering a wide range of issues including social media. Members come ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.