EU member state websites laden with third-party cookies

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 19, 2019

A new report (PDF) reveals that the vast majority of EU member state websites are laden with third-party cookies that are not disclosed to visitors.

Cookiebot, a service to make websites GDPR and EPR compliant, scanned more than 180,000 EU government web pages over the course of two days to analyze cookie behavior on these sites.

It discovered that only three government websites out of of 28 did not contain any third-party tracking cookies. All in all, it discovered 112 different ad tracking companies on EU public sector websites.

Government sites in Germany, the Netherlands and Spain did not contain commercial cookies. France, Latvia, Belgium and Greece sites had more than 15 cookies each during scans, with France taking the crown with 52 different ad trackers found on government web pages.

The findings come as a surprise for two main reasons. First, because one would expect that official government websites follow regulations in regards to cookie usage and tracking to the letter, especially since they expect public sites to do so.  Second, because these sites don't depend on advertising revenue as they are publicly funded.

Cookiebot analyzed public health service sites in six member states in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, and Spain, as well and found a large number of ad trackers in most cases.

ad tracking eu websites

The percentage of landing pages with ad trackers ranged from 73% in Ireland to 33% in Germany. A German public health service site loaded trackers by 63 different tracking companies alone.

The company identified 112 different companies that tracked citizens from the EU that visited the analyzed government or public health service sites. Ten of these could not be identified as they masked their identity according to Cookiebot.

Google dominates the tracking on government and public health sector sites. Three of the top five domains with government site trackers are owned by Google, and two of the top five domains with public health site trackers are owned by the company as well.

Google tracks visits to 82% of the scanned government websites and 43% of the scanned Public Health sector sites.

Top 5 trackers on EU government sites:

  1. YouTube
  2. DoubleClick
  3. Twitter
  4. Google
  5. Facebook

Top 5 trackers on Public Health Service landing pages:

  • DoubleClick
  • Google
  • Adobe
  • AppNexus
  • Mediamath

Why are these trackers on these sites?

Third-party service plugins and embeds are the main way in which trackers landed on government and public health sector websites according to the report.

Examples given include use of analytics software or share plugins, third-party media embeds, or use of third-party galleries or comment plugins.

What can you do about it?

One of the easier options is to block third-party cookies in your browser of choice. In Firefox, you can disable all third-party cookies, or configure Firefox to clear cookies on exit.

Content blockers like uBlock Origin help as well as they block connections to many of these sites automatically and come with options to add undetected connections as well.

Now You: What is your take on this?

EU member state websites laden with third-party cookies
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EU member state websites laden with third-party cookies
A new report (PDF) highlights that the vast majority of EU member state websites are laden with third-party cookies that are not disclosed to visitors.
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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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