Adieu To ScorecardResearch, Comscore And, Especially, ShareThis

Lately I’ve been somewhat perplexed as to why the web site I’ve been working on (a Woo Commerce installation) sometimes loads slowly. It doesn’t do it all the time, but when it does, it’s really bad. We’ve had some problems with our Internet connection, so whenever things slow down I immediately suspect a problem with our ISP, but this time I noticed that all the other web sites I went to seemed to be loading fine.

Naturally, my heart sank. That might mean that my web server had begun to slow down from the sheer number of products I was adding to this store. And if that was the case, after all the work I’d put into this new web store… well, that would be a depressing failure.

Ever the tinkerer, I went to Google’s PageSpeed app to see what the problem might be, if it was, indeed, my web server. One thing that immediately popped out at me was the following recommendation;

Remove the following redirect chain if possible:

http://b.scorecardresearch.com/…seg.sharethis.com…

I’ve shortened the code, of course (it was pretty long), and have only included the pertinent parts. Namely, scorecardresearch.com and sharethis.com. Holy sheep dip! Could the ShareThis plug-in be infecting my web site with the scorecardresearch virus? Yeah, I know it’s not technically a virus, but it’s something embedded into my web site against my will – what else do you call it?

I disabled the ShareThis plug-in and discovered, much to my pleasure, that my web site immediately ran better. The t-shirt attributes that were taking so long to load were suddenly loading almost instantenously. Most importantly, and most damning, when I reactivated ShareThis, the web site immediately bogged down again. So, I turned it off. Probably for good.

Then I got kind of mad. I wondered if anyone else had this problem, so I did some searches. I wound up on the forums at the ShareThis web site, and found a post where someone asked;

After doing some investigation, it (scorecardresearch) is indeed being pulled from the Sharethis embedded script. I’m a little surprised, but I’d like to know whether ShareThis is aware of the tracking img or not.

A ShareThis representative responded;

The image pixel you are talking about is used by comscore – http://www.comscore.com/. We are using comscore to get an idea about how large our audience is. I assure you that it does not capture key strokes. If you are uncomfortable with that pixel being fired you can opt-out by going to http://sharethis.com/privacy

Opt out? I didn’t “opt-in”, and neither did my users. Okay, maybe it’s implied that if I use their plug-in I agree to whatever they want to embed in the plug-in. But doesn’t that establish a terrible business model? You’re interested in finding out how large your audience is, so you get in bed with a company that’s largely considered the scourge of the Internet, and you embed code that is, basically, crippling your users’ web sites? That’s just stupid.

Here’s the thing. I have a standing policy in regard to computer software, and to web site scripts and plug-ins, as well. Once a company becomes so arrogant that they begin to limit my choices about what can or cannot be done with their software, plug-ins or scripts, or their product starts to interfere with the normal operation of my computer or server, that company no longer gets my business. It’s that simple.

A follow-up question was asked;

I do not want my visitors getting grappled by this stupid little tracker. It bogged down my MAC bigtime. I opted out, but are others who visit my site going to run into this same problem? How can we take advantage of the sharethis toolbar, without this tracking firing on each person who loads the site?

The reply from ShareThis pretty much ensure I would no longer use their plug-in on any of my web sites.

If a user opts-out, he/she will need to optout again in case he/she clears the browser cookies. It’s as per the functionality.

In the opinion of ShareThis, if your users don’t want to be tracked by ScorecardResearch.com, they can “opt-out”. It’s part of their functionality and they’re not going to change it. So if you continue to use ShareThis, your users will just have to “opt-out” of having their activities tracked, and they’ll have to “opt-out” anew any time they delete their cookies in their web browser. And since that discussion thread was over a year old, clearly ShareThis has no intention of doing anything about it.

That’s unacceptable to me. I love the ShareThis plug-in, but I think the time has come to remove it from all of my web sites. I won’t have my users and customers being tracked against their will. Especially not by the Comscore scourge. I don’t care how useful it is for ShareThis to know “how large our audience is”.

I can guarantee ShareThis one thing. They’ve made sure that their audience will be shrinking.

In closing, all I’ll say, and this is directed to the Internet community at large and Comscore in particular, is that I find the activities of Comscore and ScorecardResearch to be unacceptable. Their code is embedded, like a virus, in web sites against the wishes of their owners, and I won’t put up with it. At least not on my web sites. And if ShareThis and other companies want to willingly engage in the spreading of this marketing virus, they deserve to wind up on the dustbin of history.

Most of us who pay attention have heard of Comscore and ScorecardResearch. They’ve been trying to track all of us for years, and against our wishes. The only reason Comscore gets away with their activities is because most people don’t know about them. You ask anyone how they would feel about knowing that a company is attempting to track their every move on the Internet and it quickly becomes abundantly clear why the ScorecardResearch code slithers in like a snake.

I would recommend that if you use the ShareThis plug-in that you deactivate it immediately. ShareThis has made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of honoring our privacy. It’s fine if ShareThis wants to keep track of the web sites where their plug-in is installed, but it’s something else entirely to attempt to track the activities of the users of those web sites.

Unacceptable.

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6 thoughts on “Adieu To ScorecardResearch, Comscore And, Especially, ShareThis

  1. I found something like this, too.

    There is a “Share By Email” button that not ShareThis, but AddThis offers.

    It seems to do the same thing.

    I discovered it by looking my site up in pingdom.org’s tools to see if I could make it faster. -And wouldn’t you know it, there’s this thing in the waterfall with this huge graph line, taking forever and its the scorecard research thing.

    The code was: [code] s7.addthis.com/js/250/addthis_widget.js [/code]

    Thanks very much for this post, because I thought I must’ve been hallucinating.

    An informal test on the same pingdom shows my site almost 800ms faster now.

    Cheers!

  2. DSem, I switched to Hupso Share and haven’t had any real complaints over it. Had to ditch Social Maven because it got slow, too (though I don’t think it was because of any Scorecard Research injections). It seems like it’s just the nature of the beast. Companies are always going to go too far eventually.

  3. Thank you for confirming my suspicions; was running a cascade on Pingdom and wondering why in the world my site would randomly bog down to +10 seconds on load, then saw a horrendously long load time for some strange script on the site with a subdomain from scorecardresearch.com… Seeing it loaded around the same time as ShareThis, that plugin became suspect, and you just confirmed it. As you said above, time to say good bye to ShareThis! I wonder if AddThis has the same sneaky code embed?

  4. The customer has become the product. From the Sharethis privacy page:

    “… We may share non-aggregate, non-personally identifiable Usage Information, including audience segments, with third party advertisers and publishers to assist us and them in delivering relevant, targeted advertising that is aligned with user interests. For example, these companies may use such information (e.g., click stream information, browser type, time and date, subject of advertisements clicked or scrolled over) …”

    Did you know they even track your mouse movements and send it back to base? Awesome.

  5. I’ve started using a plug-in called Social Maven, which I like much better than ShareThis. It’s a little different and doesn’t have as many options, but it seems to have all the important ones. It also has Pinterest integration. You should check it out. I like it a lot, and have been installing it on all of my web sites, as well as recommending it to all of my Web clients.

  6. Very annoying that Sharethis is doing this. We have the same issue, and it’s not great for our users that they are getting another 3rd party cookie dropped by Comscore. In view of EU cookie legislation more sites will be reviewing this I expect, and deciding not to use Sharethis plugin.

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