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Up to 90% of governmental websites include cookies of third-party trackers

Researchers Matthias Götze (TU Berlin), Srdjan Matic (IMDEA Software), Costas Iordanou (Cyprus University of Technology), Georgios Smaragdakis (TU Delft)…

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Researchers Matthias Götze (TU Berlin), Srdjan Matic (IMDEA Software), Costas Iordanou (Cyprus University of Technology), Georgios Smaragdakis (TU Delft) and Nikolaos Laoutaris (IMDEA Networks) have presented at the ‘Web Science Conference’ the paper: “Measuring Web Cookies in Governmental Websites”, in which they investigate governmental websites of G20 countries and evaluate to what extent visits to these sites are tracked by third parties.

Credit: Matthias Götze (TU Berlin), Srdjan Matic (IMDEA Software), Costas Iordanou (Universidad de Chipre de Tecnología), Georgios Smaragdakis (TU Delft), and Nikolaos Laoutaris (IMDEA Networks)

Researchers Matthias Götze (TU Berlin), Srdjan Matic (IMDEA Software), Costas Iordanou (Cyprus University of Technology), Georgios Smaragdakis (TU Delft) and Nikolaos Laoutaris (IMDEA Networks) have presented at the ‘Web Science Conference’ the paper: “Measuring Web Cookies in Governmental Websites”, in which they investigate governmental websites of G20 countries and evaluate to what extent visits to these sites are tracked by third parties.

The results reveal that in some countries up to 90% of these websites add third-party tracker cookies without users’ consent. This occurs even in countries with strict user privacy laws.

The study

Previous studies have shown the widespread use of cookies to track users on websites on an unprecedented scale but this had not been studied so far on government sites.

The researchers considered studying the behavior of government websites and their compliance or non-compliance with data protection laws during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when citizen information was provided through official websites of international organizations and governments. “Our results indicate that official governmental, international organizations’ websites and other sites that serve public health information related to COVID-19 are not held to higher standards regarding respecting user privacy than the rest of the web, which is an oxymoron given the push of many of those governments for enforcing GDPR,” comments Nikolaos Laoutaris, Research Professor at IMDEA Networks.

A total of 5,500 websites of international organizations, official COVID-19 information and governments of G20 countries were analyzed: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, UK and USA.

Methodology: types of cookies

There are several types of cookies. “There are first-party cookies, which are those created by the visited website itself, while third-party cookies are those commonly created by external agents through content embedded in the website. In addition, there is the cookie ghostwriting, in which an external entity creates the cookie on behalf of another party and therefore its origin is unknown”, highlights Srdjan Matic, Research Assistant Professor at IMDEA Software.

This paper also distinguishes between cookies by their duration: session cookies active only during the visit to the page or persistent cookies of short, medium or long duration.

Results: G20 government websites

Most of the websites of the G20 countries analyzed install at least one cookie without the user’s consent. Japan is the country with the lowest percentage of websites with cookies, with 77.2%, and South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia lead the ranking with almost 100%.

Figure 1. Percentage of government websites (number in parenthesis) that contain ≥ 1 cookie per G20 country. 

Of the cookies located the article analyzes the number of third-party cookies (TP) and third-party tracking cookies (TPT). Together, they add up from about 30% in the case of Germany to 95% in the case of Russia. Germany is the only country where this percentage decreases significantly, with only 9% of official websites including a TPT cookie.

Figure 3. Percentage of government websites with third-party (TP) and third-party tracker (TPT) cookies per G20 country. 

In 16 of the 19 countries analyzed, more than 50% of TP and TPT cookies take more than one day to expire.

Figure 5. Percentage of TP and third-party trackers (TPT) cookies with expire times ≥ a day for G20 countries. 

In the table below, the cookie expiration times divided by first party, TP and TPT by country are shown. France leads the ranking of countries for TP and TPT of more than one-year duration. 

Figure 7. Expiration times for first-party (FP), third-party (TP), and third-party trackers’ (TPT) cookies at G20 countries.

Results: International Organizations websites

The study shows that around 95% of the websites of international organizations set cookies and around 60% of these websites use at least one third-party (TP) cookie. Matic explains that “there are no special measures to neutralize third-party cookies on these websites since 52% of the websites of international organizations set at least one cookie associated with a tracker (TPT)”. 

Results: COVID-19 Websites

More than 99% of the websites analyzed in the COVID-19 information study add at least one cookie without the user’s consent. In contrast, there is a lower presence of third-party (TP) cookies, at around 62%.

As Laoutaris points out, with this publication the research team aims to “put more pressure on governments to clean up their own house first and, by doing so, set an example and be more convincing about the importance of implementing the GDPR in practice”. 


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$265 Billion In Added Value To Evaporate From Germany Economy Amid Energy Crisis, Study Warns

$265 Billion In Added Value To Evaporate From Germany Economy Amid Energy Crisis, Study Warns

A new report published by the Employment Research…

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$265 Billion In Added Value To Evaporate From Germany Economy Amid Energy Crisis, Study Warns

A new report published by the Employment Research (IAB) on Tuesday outlines how Germany's economy will lose a whopping 260 billion euros ($265 billion) in added value by the end of the decade due to high energy prices sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine which will have severe ramifications on the labor market, according to Reuters

IAB said Germany's price-adjusted GDP could be 1.7% lower in 2023, with approximately 240,000 job losses, adding labor market turmoil could last through 2026. It expects the labor market will begin rehealing by 2030 with 60,000 job additions.

The report pointed out the hospitality industry will be one of the biggest losers in the coming downturn that the coronavirus pandemic has already hit. Consumers who have seen their purchasing power collapse due to negative real wage growth as the highest inflation in decades runs rampant through the economy will reduce spending. 

IAB said energy-intensive industries, such as chemical and metal industries, will be significantly affected by soaring power prices. 

In one scenario, IAB said if energy prices, already up 160%, were to double again, Germany's economic output would crater by nearly 4% than it would have without energy supply disruptions from Russia. Under this assumption, 660,000 fewer people would be employed after three years and still 60,000 fewer in 2030. 

This week alone, German power prices hit record highs as a heat wave increased demand, putting pressure on energy supplies ahead of winter. 

Rising power costs are putting German households in economic misery as economic sentiment across the euro-area economy tumbled to a new record low. What happens in Germany tends to spread to the rest of the EU. 

There are concerns that a sharp weakening of growth in Germany could trigger stagflation as German inflation unexpectedly re-accelerated in July, with EU-Harmonized CPI rising 8.5% YoY. 

Germany is facing an unprecedented energy crisis as Russian natural gas cuts via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline will reverse the prosperity many have been accustomed to as the largest economy in Europe. 

"We are facing the biggest crisis the country has ever had. We have to be honest and say: First of all, we will lose the prosperity that we have had for years," Rainer Dulger, head of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations, warned last month. 

Besides Dulger, Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned of a "catastrophic winter" ahead over Russian NatGas cut fears.

Other officials and experts forecast bankruptcies, inflation, and energy rationing this winter that could unleash a tsunami of shockwaves across the German economy.  

Yasmin Fahimi, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions, warned last month:

"Because of the NatGas bottlenecks, entire industries are in danger of permanently collapsing: aluminum, glass, the chemical industry." 

IAB's report appears to be on point as the German economy seems to be diving head first into an economic crisis. Much of this could've been prevented, but Europe and the US have been so adamant about slapping Russia with sanctions that have embarrassingly backfired. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 04:15

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“Anything But A Cashless Society”: Physical Money Makes Comeback As UK Households Battle Inflation

"Anything But A Cashless Society": Physical Money Makes Comeback As UK Households Battle Inflation

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has been…

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"Anything But A Cashless Society": Physical Money Makes Comeback As UK Households Battle Inflation

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has been pushing hard for a 'cashless society' in a post-pandemic world, though physical money has made a comeback in at least one European country as consumers increasingly use notes and coins to help them balance household budgets amid an inflationary storm

Britain's Post Office released a report Monday that revealed even though the recent accelerated use of cards and digital payments on smartphones, demand for cash surged this summer, according to The Guardian. It said branches handled £801mln in personal cash withdrawals in July, an increase of 8% over June. The yearly change on last month's figures was up 20% versus the July 2021 figure of £665mln.

Across the Post Office's 11,500 branches, £3.31bln in cash was deposited and withdrawn in July -- a record high for any month dating back over three centuries of operations. 

The report pointed out that increasing physical cash demand was primarily due to more people managing their budgets via notes and coins on a "day-by-day basis." It said some withdrawals were from vacationers needing cash for "staycations" in the UK. About 600,000 cash payouts totaling £90mln were from people who received power bill support from the government, the Post Office noted. 

Britain is "anything but a cashless society," according to the Post Office's banking director Martin Kearsley.

"We're seeing more and more people increasingly reliant on cash as the tried and tested way to manage a budget. Whether that's for a staycation in the UK or if it's to help prepare for financial pressures expected in the autumn, cash access in every community is critical," Kearsley said.

We noted in February 2021, UK's largest ATM network saw plummeting demand as consumers reduced cash usage. At the time, we asked this question: "How long will the desire for good old-fashioned bank notes last?

... and the answer is not long per the Post Office's new report as The Guardian explains: "inflation going up and many bills expected to rise further – has led a growing numbers of people to turn once again to cash to help them plan their spending." 

So much for WEF, central banks, and major corporations pushing for cashless societies worldwide, more importantly, trying to usher in a hyper-centralized CBDC dystopia. With physical cash back in style in the UK, the move towards a cashless society could be a much more challenging task for elites than previously thought. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 08/10/2022 - 02:45

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Something Just Doesn’t Add Up In Chinese Trade Data

Something Just Doesn’t Add Up In Chinese Trade Data

By Ye Xie, Bloomberg markets live commentator and reporter

An unusual discrepancy has…

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Something Just Doesn’t Add Up In Chinese Trade Data

By Ye Xie, Bloomberg markets live commentator and reporter

An unusual discrepancy has showed up in two sets of trade data in China. Depending on which official sources you use, China’s trade surplus, could either be overstated or under-reported by a staggering $166 billion over the past year.

China watchers cannot fully explain the mystery. It’s as if Chinese residents bought a lot of stuff overseas, and instead of shipping the items home, they were kept abroad for some reason.  

China’s exports have been surprisingly resilient, despite a slowing global economy and Covid disruptions. On Monday, General Administration of Customs data showed China’s exports increased 18% in July from a year earlier. In contrast, imports grew only 2.3%, reflecting weak domestic demand.

The result is China’s trade surplus keeps swelling, which has underpinned the yuan by offsetting capital outflows. The surplus over the past year amounted to a record $864 billion, more than double the level at the end of 2019.

But when comparing the Customs data with that from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), a different picture emerges. The SAFE data shows the surplus is growing at a much slower pace -- about 20% less than the customs figure

The two data sets used to track each other closely. SAFE typically reports fewer imports, thus a higher surplus, because it excludes costs, insurance and freight from the value of goods imported, in line with the international standard practice, Adam Wolfe, an economist at Absolute Strategy Research, noted.

The other adjustments that SAFE does include:

  • It only records transactions that involve a change of ownership;
  • It adjusts for returned items;
  • It adds goods bought and resold abroad that don’t cross China’s border, but result in income for a Chinese entity -- a practice known  as “merchanting.”

The relationship between the two data sets has flipped since 2021, as SAFE reported higher imports, resulting in a smaller surplus than the Customs data.

It’s particularly odd because it happened at a time when shipping costs skyrocketed. When SAFE removes freight and insurance costs, it would have resulted in even lower, not higher, imports.

Taken at face value, the discrepancy suggests that somebody in China “bought” lots of goods from abroad, but they have never arrived in China. These transactions would be recorded by SAFE as imports, but not at the Customs office.

Craig Botham at Pantheon Macroeconomics, suspects that Covid-19 may be playing a role here. Foreign firms unable to manufacture in factories elsewhere during the pandemic might have transferred materials to China for assembly, a transaction excluded by SAFE.

Could Chinese buyers overstate their foreign purchases to SAFE, which regulates the capital account, so they can move money out of the country? The cross-border transactions show there was widespread overpaying for imports in 2014-2015, during a period of intense capital flight, but not at the moment, Wolfe pointed out.

Source: Absolute Strategy Research

The bottom line is that there aren’t many good explanations. As Alex Etra, a senior strategist at Exante Data, said, there’s “no smoking gun” to suggest something fishy is going on.

It’s another mysterious puzzle waiting to be solved.

Tyler Durden Tue, 08/09/2022 - 22:28

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