According to a recent study released by the Stanford University Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, many online advertising networks do not comply with their privacy policies. This study, which is similar to a study conducted earlier this year by Carnegie Mellon University, focused on the actions of 64 of the 75 members of the NAI (Network Advertising Initiative), a voluntary internet advertising industry group which was established to address concerns about privacy violations online. Members of the NAI are required to provide features which allow consumers to opt out of online tracking/advertising.

This study was conducted over several months, during which time the Stanford Security Lab researchers performed tests to see if behavioral tracking cookies were placed before and after the users enabled the Do Not Track options offered by the NAI. The researchers were able to identify the tracking cookies placed on the user’s machine and monitor the changes of the cookies throughout their testing.

The results of Stanford’s study were also similar those of the Carnegie Mellon study released earlier in the year, which were very disappointing. The results of the Stanford study found that all but one of the 64 NAI members who were being observed left existing tracking cookies on the user’s machine despite the fact that the user elected the “Do Not Track” option. Many of the 64 members had even left the cookies in place after users opted out of tracking all together, which is clearly a violation of the statements made in their privacy agreements.

Together, the Stanford study and the study by Carnegie Mellon both confirm that we have all very likely been victims of these online advertising firms at some point or another. One thing is for certain though, every single time we surf the web, we are being watched!

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