Did Sitemeter sell out to Spyware?

LeftLast night a newsletter from StatCounter dropped in noting the website statistics providers recent refusal to accept big bucks to allow a third party spyware firm to place cookies in the code of EVERY user of statcounter services.

Not only did StatCounter take pride in refusing the offer, they also made it clear that one of the leading competitors had ACCEPTED the dirty money in exchange for cookie placement in the stat tracking code.

From the official StatCounter Blog:

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…

The StatCounter blog was instantly slammed with traffic resulting in a slew of comments. As of the time of writing this, the blog post had received 261 comments and it has been less than 24 hours since the time of the original post.

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.

If anyone else has more info please send it my way and I’ll post it here.
ericjodom AT gmail DOT com

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43 Responses to “Did Sitemeter sell out to Spyware?” »»

  1. Comment by Eric | 03/26/07 at 10:02 pm


    At first, I thought I had already moved all of my sites over to StatCounter a few months ago, but I had not. As mentioned above, I’ve now made the switch.

    Also, our network has more than 50 blogs and we’ve sent out a newsletter asking all members to remove Sitemeter.

    I’ve received two e-mails from people I know who have bailed on Sitemeter as well.

    Sounds like Sitemeter didn’t think this one through.


  2. Comment by Tony | 03/27/07 at 1:40 am

    Thank you for this information. I detest spyware and will move to remove Sitemeter from my blogs today.

  3. Comment by Eric | 03/27/07 at 1:47 am

    Good move, Tony.

    We still have a couple blogs on the network that have Sitemeter installed. We should have those taken care of within a day or two.

  4. Comment by Clement | 03/27/07 at 1:59 am

    So it is true that the stat provider involved in all this is sitemeter. This is very bad.

  5. Comment by Jackie | 03/31/07 at 12:28 pm

    I can’t believe this! I’ve been chasing my tail for a week trying to find the cause of the SpecificClick redirect on our sites. One of them is just about to go Live in a huge corporate in the UK and there’s no way we can continue using SiteMeter if this is true.

    I’ve emailed them too and will let you know if I hear back. I’m so disappointed in them - they’ve always been helpful and it’s a really good tool.

    We’ve been recommending them to clients for years, so they’ll be losing a number of accounts here …

  6. Comment by Richard | 04/03/07 at 6:01 pm

    Popular web businesses get approached by spammy companies a lot. I’m sure that Google receives a ton of seedy requests. I’ve never heard Google make an announcement about it. http://GoStats.com (a web stats counter provider) was approached in the same way and quietly declined to allow spyware. It’s such an obvious decision to make that I’m wary of those who had to tell the world about their spam purity.

  7. Comment by anon | 04/04/07 at 7:39 am

    You’re FROM gostats Richard - stop being so sneaky.

    I WON’T be using your counter.

  8. Comment by Jenni | 04/04/07 at 7:43 am

    Hi Richard,

    StatCounter didn’t mention this refusal either…not until another provider sold out.

    When that happened, it made our refusal into a selling point - simple as that!

    StatCounter Team

  9. Comment by west | 04/04/07 at 11:06 am

    this is an email i received back from Sitemeter after i questioned there specificclick addition:



    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.


    The Sitemeter Team

  10. Comment by david | 04/04/07 at 12:57 pm

    WHAT a load of BS from sitemeter.

    1. They are doing this beta testing without telling anyone.

    2. Advertiser? Trusted partner? come on! how are they a ‘trusted partner’ - i never gave consent for my details to be given to any third party - ‘trusted’ or not

    3. Spying on our visitors and SELLING the details is for our benefit?? gimme a break

    4. how come their privacy policy ain’t been updated

    5. more info here:


  11. Comment by Eric | 04/04/07 at 1:13 pm

    Jenni, thanks for stopping by! I’m sure this thing has kept you busy over the past week.

    I think the Sitemeter response shows they are completely unwilling to shed the nasty spyware and look at what is most important for their users.

    It’s obvious they are standing by the decision.

    -Eric Odom

  12. Comment by Lucy | 04/05/07 at 9:47 pm

    I emailed SiteMeter and told them I don’t want this and they let me opt-out. You can email them and ask and they can give you two options to stop getting the cookie. First, they set you up on a server that does not include the cookie or second, you can use the HTML code instead of JavaScript and it will not allow the second cookie to drop. I have to say, it’s definitely not spyware what they are doing, in fact it is the same thing as Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft. They told me it was up to me if I wanted to stay in the beta, I decided to opt-out and they were more than responsive to help. I think everyone is over-reacting a bit to the news here. I find it a bit odd that StatCounter blows a story that no one can verify, wins a bunch of customers wihtout any of us finding out what is going on. Great PR move StatCounter but I’m not a fan of your ‘good ethics’ - I’m clean on SiteMeter now and they responded to my email in less than 24 hours, did anyone else get a good response like me?

  13. Comment by Eric | 04/05/07 at 9:49 pm

    Lucy, how is an information mining cookie not spyware?

    Plus, it’s too little too late. Why should I have to “opt out” of having these dodgy cookies served to my readers?

    No thanks.

    -Eric Odom

  14. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:12 pm

    I tried to respond but it’s not showing up???

  15. Comment by Eric | 04/05/07 at 10:12 pm


  16. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:13 pm

    Spyware and Adware is Software loaded onto your computer. A cookie is not software, in fact, all cookies are picked up by anti-virus companies and label them ’spyware’ - why you ask? Because that’s marketing genius of the antivirus companies… Most people don’t get viruses or adware or spyware so the companies add this label to them so it makes their product look like it does more for consumers. Spyware, adware, trojans, etc.. are pieces of software loaded onto yoru machine, cookies are completely harmless. In any case, I didn’t think the opt-out was that big of an issue since it is a free service and they say it is for getting new reports to their users that they couldn’t do themselves. FYI, you can opt-out of the Specificclick cookie by visiting this website. It appears that these companies aren’t that evil after all and actually give some protection to consumers. Go to here if you are interested:


  17. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:14 pm

    I think it was too long, here is more that I was trying to respond…

    In fact, this company is listed next to other big companies like Doubleclick, in which Google and Microsoft are apparently trying to purchase right now.


  18. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:15 pm

    Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but it appears StatCounter gets listed as ’spyware’ cookies by the anti-virus companies as well… Who do you trust? At least you can opt-out of the specificclick cookie - a bit odd that you can’t with statcounters.

    All in all, cookies are not that big of a deal.. real spyware is

  19. Comment by Eric | 04/05/07 at 10:17 pm

    And you find no reason to question the intent of the cookie when the same company approached StatCounter and offered them MONEY to host the cookie?

    Sounds like you’re hard at work defending Sitemeter. Is Sitemeter out in the blogosphere working on some damage control?

    I’ve drawn my conclusion. I’m now using Statcounter and Google An.

    Stay with Sitemeter if you want. But use at your own risk.

  20. Comment by Eric | 04/05/07 at 10:18 pm

    And Lucy, your last post is old news. That cookie is on STATCOUNTERS website, not the sites of those who use Statcounter.

    Now you really look like a Sitemeter damage control troll.

  21. Comment by Lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:30 pm

    Whoa - lets not attack me now i don’t think I’ll add a comment anymore! GEEZ! You are mistaken about statcounter though they drop on every visitor to your site. It would be impossible to track ‘unique users’ without doing so.

    Sorry if I offended you at all, just trying to shed light on what a cookie is and what spyware is… I just received a statcounter cookie from your site nwo when I hit refresh. Can you believe it?

    I’m a programmer just offering advice to what stuff is - that’s all.

    I do love your blog though - even if you are ‘off base’ on this one :)

  22. Comment by Eric | 04/05/07 at 10:36 pm

    “Whoa - lets not attack me now i don’t think I’ll add a comment anymore! GEEZ!”

    Calm down, Lucy. It wasn’t an attack. Just an observation.

    “You are mistaken about statcounter though they drop on every visitor to your site. It would be impossible to track ‘unique users’ without doing so.”

    I do appreciate your efforts here, but most of my readers will get the point, and read between the lines of what is being said here.

    “Sorry if I offended you at all”

    I’m a political consultant, so you would have to do a LOT more than that to offend me. Hell, I’ve gotten death threats. ;-)

    I take no offense. This is comment discussion.

    “I’m a programmer just offering advice to what stuff is - that’s all.”

    And thanks for sharing your opinion. I’ve shared mine. Now we’ll let the readers decide.

    “I do love your blog though”

    Thanks, and where would I find your blog?

    “even if you are ‘off base’ on this one”

    More opinion…

    -Eric Odom

  23. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:39 pm

    I’m not a blogger I just run some sites for people as a service - I don’t know if it would be appropriate for me to name them though.

    :) I wasn’t that offended anyway…

    “Down with the donkeys and in with the elephants!”

    … now I have two statcounter cookies… crappy!

  24. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:40 pm

    I had to throw the last comment in! :)

  25. Comment by lucy | 04/05/07 at 10:47 pm

    An interesting tidbit to add before I go that I just realized while waiting for your response…

    Statcounter’s cookie is set to stay on my machine for 5 years!!! It expires on this date in 2012!

    Specificclick’s that I got expires in 1 year, thsi date in 2008.

    I’m clogging the rsponse’s sorry… You do have to admit though that is an interesting pick up by me!

  26. Comment by Eric | 04/05/07 at 10:47 pm

    “I had to throw the last comment in!”

    Nice little nudge… :-)

    Thanks for stopping by! I like a late night discussion.

  27. Comment by jenni | 04/07/07 at 1:37 am


    Following some comments above, I thought I’d best clear up exactly what StatCounter has said no to…

    We don’t believe that we should abuse our member websites by sneakily using them to place OTHER people’s cookies on THEIR visitors’ browsers.

    Our point is, that we do not force extra cookies on the people who visit YOUR site. THAT is what is happening with another provider.

    If you have StatCounter:
    Clear your cookies.
    Visit your OWN site.
    You won’t see any cookies other than a StatCounter one - this means that we are NOT foisting nasty cookies on your visitors. (The StatCounter cookie is simply used to track unique visitors.)

    If you have “the other provider”:
    Clear your cookies.
    Visit YOUR site.
    Check out the amount of cookies created - this is what all your visitors are being subjected to!

    StatCounter Team

  28. Comment by beans | 04/10/07 at 9:52 am

    Hi, I’m a little confused after reading through the comments. Who are the ‘bad guys’ then? I use both, but my knowledge of spyware and its evil is pretty low, so would you recommend getting rid of site meter?


  29. Comment by Richard | 05/10/07 at 2:58 am

    @anon, It’s not sneaky with full disclosure and all. (hmm, I wonder where “anon” is from)

    @Jenni your response contradicts itself. Anyway, stat counter email-spammed their users about the “announcement”.

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