Government websites leak data to Google & Co.

Many European and US government websites contain third-party trackers that collect metadata about citizens. This is revealed by an analysis by

Government websites leak data to trackers

Sam MacbethSoftware Engineer

You probably know that trackers monitor virtually everything you do on the web. But did you know that they are even lurking on many government websites? For example, US government sites contain an average of more than 2.4 trackers, and Google Analytics is almost everywhere. That’s what the latest data shows. is a joint initiative of Cliqz and Ghostery. It provides structured information on tracking technologies, market structure and data-sharing on the web and thus creates more transparency. On the website, interested parties will find visualized monthly tracker statistics. They are based on the evaluation of around 300 million-page loads and more than half a million websites.

Average number of trackers seen on selected government websites from the WhoTracks.Me September dataset.
Average number of trackers seen on selected government websites from the WhoTracks.Me September dataset.

Government websites act as information portals, allowing citizens to access information or services from their government. In some cases, the use of government sites will be mandatory, for example, services set up for submitting tax or visa information. Thus, it is concerning that third-party tracking appears on these sites, where users do not have a choice whether or not they access the service, and are then forced to hand over data to third-party companies by their governments.

Here is a list of government websites on which found third-party trackers:

Country Site Notable trackers
Australia Google Analytics, Doubleclick
Europe Google Analytics, Google, Twitter
France Google Analytics, Doubleclick
France AT Internet
France AT Internet
Russia Yandex
UK Google Analytics, Optimizely
US Google Analytics, Google, AddThis
US Google Analytics, Doubleclick
US Google Analytics, New Relic, AddToAny, Youtube, Foresee
US Google Analytics, Doubleclick, Google
US Google Analytics
US Google Analytics, Google, Youtube, Qualtrics
US Google Analytics, AddThis

Surprisingly, Germany (where the majority of the contributors reside) does not appear in the data. A brief check of a few sites like and the Federal Tax Office shows a preference for self-hosted analytics, such as Matomo (formerly Piwik), rather than third-party solutions, such as Google Analytics.

Metadata about citizens is leaked to third-parties

Note that, as does not collect data about pages with no third-party trackers, the data we show here may be biased for sites where sensitive areas do not have tracking. Further study would be required to assess whether the tracking reported here leaks sensitive information when accessing public services.

However, the presence of tracking on these pages is enough to leak valuable metadata about citizens to third-party companies. We should be asking if it is acceptable for our governments to expose us to this risk. After all, when metadata is coupled with other information, people can be easily identified.

Anti-tracking tools such as Cliqz or Ghostery protect your personal data. They reliably prevent third-parties from spying on your browsing behavior and ensure that your privacy is preserved online.