Tag Archives: automattic

Follow-up Friday: Ubuntu Unity, Android security & WordPress Stats

Just a couple of small updates on previous stories to keep you posted really.

We’ll start of with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal; beta 2 has been released earlier today. I’ve downloaded a lot of updated packages over the last few days, so I guess I’m on the second beta as well. The Unity launcher now comes out of hiding perfectly and it scrolls down automatically to show items at the bottom as well. There also was a bug with the menu-items of some applications (e.g. Firefox 4) disappearing which seems fixed. Hope they can get the launcher to behave with Java apps (e.g. my favorite mindmapping application) soon.

On another note: Lookout, the Android app that allows you to locate your handset and -if you have the paying version- remotely wipe it, seems to be getting some serious competition from …. Google. Enterprises who have Google Apps for Business can now locate, encrypt and wipe their Android devices. Especially the encryption is important news, but it really should be available and configurable in the Android OS itself

To finish off with some news about WordPress Stats secretive inclusion of Quantcast behavioral tracking: it seems like WordPress Stats plugin will be replaced by Automattics Jetpack, which according to the site:

supercharges your self‑hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com

Jetpack actually is a “super-plugin” that offers functionality from Stats, Sharedaddy, After the deadline and other previously separately available Automattic plugins. The Jetpack WordPress.com stats module does still include the Quantcast “spyware”, doesn’t disclose this feature and doesn’t provide functionality that warrants Quantcast inclusion (in spite of Matt Mullenweg claiming “We’ve been using Quantcast to get some additional information on uniques that it’s hard for us to calculate”). But there is (some) good news in the Jetpack Stats source code though, because on line 145 it reads:

‘do_not_track’ => true, // @todo

This could mean that blog-owners will one day be able to opt out of 3rd party tracking or it might be that Stats will take e.g. Firefox DNT-header into account for your blog’s visitors. Having both would off course be what I will be rooting for!

Quantcast spyware puts selfhosted WordPress blogs in Automattic network

A quick update about the WordPress.com Stats plugin secretive inclusion of Quantcast tracking:

WordPress.com Stats trojan horse for Quantcast tracking

Suppose you’re a blogger who values website performance and online privacy. You may have ditched Google Analytics because you think the do-no-evilers do not have to know who is on your site. Maybe you removed AddtoAny because of the 3rd party tracking code that slows down your site ever oh so slightly. And you don’t want the omnipresent Facebook Like widget for all the above reasons. No, the only 3rd party javascript you allow is the one pushed by the WordPress.com Stats plugin; one javascript-file  and one pixel and you get some nice stats in return. And come on, WordPress, those are the good guys, right?

Well, apparently not. While performing a test on for example webpagetest.org, you’ll see two requests to the quantserve.com domain;

http://edge.quantserve.com/quant.js
http://pixel.quantserve.com/pixel;r=705640318;fpan=1;fpa=P0-450352291-1292419712624;ns=0;url=http%3A%2F%2Fblog.futtta.be%2F;ref=;ce=1;je=1;sr=1024x768x32;enc=n;ogl=;dst=1;et=1292419712624;tzo=300;a=p-18-mFEk4J448M;labels=type.wporg

Ouch, that hurts! But surely Quantcast aren’t in the same league as AddtoAny’s media6degrees, who do behavioral advertising based on data captured all across the web? Well … Quantcast might be better known, but they do exactly the same thing; collecting user information and providing that info for targeted advertising. And just so you know, Quantcast is one of the companies that is on trial for restoring deleted cookies using Flash (“zombie cookies”). So no, I’m not comfortable with Quantcast collecting data on my blog’s visitors.

Now I know that I opted in on user-tracking by WordPress (or rather Automattic). And I can live with them knowing who visits my blog, I can live with the small performance-impact that the stats-plugin has on my site that way. But I did not sign up for 3rd party tracking, the plugin-page conveniantly fails to mention the extra tracking, there’s no opt-out mechanism in the plugin and there’s no info to be found on how to disable Quantcast tracking users on my own blog. I am not a happy WordPress-blogger!

So Automattic; please fess up and at least provide instructions on how to disable 3rd party tracking, just like AddtoAny’s Pat gracefully did?


Update 20 january 2011; Automattic seems unwilling to acknowledge there is a problem, the thread on wordpress.org forums where this was discussed has been closed. I created a small WordPress plugin, DoNotTrack, to stop Quantcast tracking. you can download it here.