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

Popularity: 44% [?]

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

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

    Update:

    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.

    -EO

  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!

    Jenni
    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:

    ———–

    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

  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:

    http://cloggie.org/proggold/2007/03/28/hey-you-get-out-of-my-head/

  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

    oh?

  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:

    http://networkadvertising.org/consumer/opt_out.asp

  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.

    http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2007/tc20070403_443471.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index_businessweek+exclusives

  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

    Hi,

    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!

    Jenni
    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?

    Thanks

  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”.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks »»>

  1. Pingback by Spyware? Não obrigado, Sitemeter | 03/31/07 at 2:37 pm

    […] Se não considerasse o assunto importante não abordaria o assunto neste espaço, nem o faria apenas por ter lido em blogs e no digg, mas eu próprio pude constatar no meu pc e você também o pode fazer. Apague todos os cookies do seu browser, entre num site com sitemeter instalado e verifique de novo os seus cookies. Eu encontrei estes: […]

  2. Pingback by SiteMeter Sending Your Readers’ Data to Specific Media » Ask Shane.org | 04/02/07 at 11:45 am

    […] In good taste they refused to name names, but it quickly came out that the “well known stats provider” was SiteMeter. Eric Odom expanded on the relationship the next day, and although there has been no acknowledgment of the deal from either Specific Media (the company inserting the tracking cookies) or SiteMeter themselves (who could have easily announced it on their blog), there have been numerous reports here lately of bloggers noticing SiteMeter really dragging down the load time of their sites. […]

  3. Pingback by doctorvee » Sitemeter can shove their spyware up their hole | 04/02/07 at 2:34 pm

    […] Eric Odom: Did Sitemeter sell out to Spyware? […]

  4. Pingback by SiteMeter | Twenty Steps | 04/03/07 at 1:06 pm

    […] It’s been interesting to read some of the fallout of SiteMeters recent change of policy regarding tracking cookies. If you hadn’t picked up on it, the previously popular free site stats program has started serving specificclick cookies to visitors of sites using the service. […]

  5. Pingback by Daily Pundit » Sitemeter Is Spyware Now? | 04/04/07 at 9:54 am

    […] Eric Odom » Did Sitemeter sell out to Spyware? Last 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. […]

  6. Pingback by Eric Odom » Sitemeter responds | 04/05/07 at 9:43 pm

    […] My post on Sitemeter’s use of spyware in their tracking code has gained a LOT of attention over the past few days. On average, the post brings about 400 visits a day via search engines and such. It’s clear a lot of peeps are out there seeking questions. […]

  7. Pingback by No Runny Eggs » Blog Archive » A bit of housekeeping | 04/06/07 at 7:15 am

    […] Thanks to Pete for digging out the fact that SiteMeter has been planting tracking advertising cookies from Specific Media’s specificclick.net in its stat-generation code. Because I HATE tracking cookies and third-party crap, I dumped them from both here and the TownHall version of NRE. At the same time, StatCounter said that it specifically rejected Specific Media’s offer, so I now have their counter installed (at least here; I can’t install it over at the TownHall version). I do automatically reject third-party cookies with Internet Explorer (there’s no direct analog in Firefox, but I keep a tight leash there), so it didn’t affect me directly; however, most people aren’t savvy enough to do so. I apologize for unknowingly planting Specific Media’s crap on your computer. […]

  8. Pingback by Spyware - You May Want To Rethink Using Sitemeter - The Wrong Advices | 04/08/07 at 5:49 am

    […] If any of you are using Sitemeter for stats reporting you might want to have a read of this article. It looks like Sitemeter is now pushing specificclick tracking and advertising cookies on to visitors of sites using their service. […]

  9. Pingback by Indie. Music. 24/7. » Important Notice: Spyware On This Site? | 04/08/07 at 10:15 pm

    […] In layman terms, it’s called Spyware. Please trust that I had no knowledge of this until stumbling onto this post earlier tonight. […]

  10. Pingback by Eric Odom » Sitemeter spyware saga continues… | 04/09/07 at 2:40 pm

    […] Since my original post, this blog has received about 250 to 350 visits per day searching for information regarding Sitemeter’s sell out to spyware advertisers. And since that first post, the blogosphere has been working overtime making sure that readers and other bloggers are aware of the devastating decision made by Sitemeter. […]

  11. Pingback by Things you should know before using Sitemeter « Michael Sync | 04/11/07 at 3:18 am

    […] 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. […]

  12. Pingback by Screw Up? Don’t Try to Hide » Ask Shane.org | 04/24/07 at 3:00 am

    […] March 26: It quickly comes to light that the unnamed provider is SiteMeter, and Eric Odem expands on the relationship on his blog. […]

  13. […] I haven’t touched much on the Sitemeter/Spyware saga as of late. The original post, which made it to the homepage of Digg and has had more than 15,000 readers since it was published, is now ranking fairly well in search engines and I believe it is keeping the debate alive and well. […]

  14. Pingback by Marginalized Action Dinosaur » Did Sitemeter take Judas’s pouch of silver? | 05/12/07 at 7:44 pm

Leave a Reply »»