The long running Occupy movement, started in Wall Street in New York and with similar protests being seen in London and on the streets of many UK cities, could be undermined by web analytics tools.
Many of the large number of websites set-up as part of the global protest have links to popular social network accounts, leaving the possibility for authorities to track the actions, locations, lifestyles and even identities of users.
A technology researcher has suggested that those affiliating themselves with the movement could be tracked using popular tools including Sitemeter and Google Analytics. Information taken from here can easily be repackaged and offered for sale to the police.
More personal information could also be collected. In an email to Fast Company, Tim Libert said:
“…the right set of database queries could identify specific account holders [and] it would be fairly trivial to compile a list of people who spent more than six hours at a time at any given Occupy encampment by looking at mobile phone records. That would give you a fairly good list of all Occupiers worldwide…”
Libert said he had tracked 100 Occupy websites, with 99 of them employing some kind of third-party embedded or cookie content.
Forty-seven sites also had Twitter and Facebook buttons, allowing the social media companies to gather information which could then be aggregated and sold to law enforcement agencies.
The news is likely to make many people think how they use the Internet, with mobile web users being particularly concerned due to GPS being able to track locations easily.