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What Is Cross Site Tracking? [+ Tips to Stay Compliant]

Osman Husain 2/13/24 12:47 PM

Table of Contents

Cross-site tracking is a practice that involves the gathering and sharing of user data across websites. It is an intriguing yet concerning aspect of digital privacy. Functionally, cross site tracking acts as an unseen observer, meticulously noting online activities, crafting a digital footprint, and amassing personal information for various marketing and sales purposes.


How Does Cross Site Tracking Work?

Cross site tracking is done through the use of cookies, beacons, and scripts that are woven into website code. Cookies are the best-known example, containing unique identifiers stored in our browsers and carried across different website pages.

Cross site tracking isn’t limited to cookies, though, as other tools—like pixel tags or web beacons—can also collect data on browsing activities and create comprehensive profiles with remarkable precision.

Beyond that, advertising can leverage fingerprinting techniques to monitor user activity across devices. By analyzing browser configurations, plugins, and other device-specific information, ad networks create unique digital fingerprints for each user. This allows them to track behavior better across devices and create a “backup” profiling strategy when cookies aren’t an option.


Can Cross Site Tracking Be Prevented?

Cookie-based cross site tracking can be helpful to users, as it supports a range of helpful UX functions like content personalization, shopping cart details, or saved login information. Nevertheless, it’s understandable that users may be concerned about websites monitoring their usage across browsing sessions. The practice can be mitigated through several avenues:

  • Enable browser privacy: Whether users have Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge, browsers offer dedicated options to block third-party cookies, disable tracking, and limit data collection.
  • Install anti-tracking extensions: Extensions like Privacy Badger, Ghostery, or uBlock Origin were built to block trackers and prevent cross-site tracking.
  • Opt-out of targeted advertising: Users can manually opt-out of targeted ads to reduce the amount of data collected. Tools like Enzuzo's consent manager can help companies manage this at scale.


Staying Compliant With Cross Site Tracking

Cross site tracking is a concern for user privacy, but it’s also a concern for businesses, as cross site tracking falls squarely under General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandates. Every company subject to GDPR must disclose its data tracking policy to users and obtain their explicit consent before proceeding. Usually, consent collection is handled through site-specific cookie banners that log and store consent details.

From there, companies can leverage tools to manage the consents they collect at scale. Google Consent Mode gives companies an easy way to manage consent granted for Google Ads and Analytics, but this applies only to the Google ecosystem. Companies seeking a more comprehensive way to manage consent will benefit from automated cookie management tools, which streamline the time-consuming process of maintaining compliance across website portfolios.

Love it or hate it, cross site tracking has become tightly integrated into our digital ecosystem. Both users and businesses should be aware of its use and how to co-exist with it in ways that keep personal information secure. 


Osman Husain

Osman is the content lead at Enzuzo. He has a background in data privacy management via a two-year role at ExpressVPN and extensive freelance work with cybersecurity and blockchain companies. Osman also holds an MBA from the Toronto Metropolitan University.