Web of Trust (MyWOT) Caught Selling Their Users’ Data Collected Via Their Web Browser Extension to Third Parties
Nov 10, 2016
Investigative journalists at the Hamburg-based German television broadcaster, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), have revealed that Web of Trust (WOT) has been collecting their users’ data through their web browser add-on or extension, and selling that data to third parties. Web of Trust claimed it anonymised the data that it sold, meaning certain identifying information are removed from the data collected, which should make it impossible to link the data back to their users, but the journalists were able to identify more than 50 users from the sample data they acquired. Popular web browsers Google Chrome, Opera, and Mozilla Firefox have removed the Web of Trust web browser add-on or extension from their repositories, so it is no longer available to their users for download, until Web of Trust(WOT) addresses the data collecting and selling problem.
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Online users who have already installed the Web of Trust add-on or extension are asked to remove it manually. It is also recommended that they remove the Web of Trust mobile app, just in case it is also collecting their data.
Web of Trust, otherwise called MyWOT or WOT, is a website reputation and review service that helps people make informed decisions about whether to trust a website or not. Web of Trust is based on a crowdsourced approach, which is enlisting the services of a number of people on the internet, to collect ratings and reviews about websites.
Web of Trust has released the following statement regarding the collecting and use of their users' data:
We take our obligations to our users very seriously. It always has been, and remains, our intention to inform our users, clearly and accurately, as to what data we collect from them and how it is used. We never intend to collect or share data which can be used to identify our users, and we have developed extensive data cleansing techniques to ensure our users remain anonymous.
After a review of some of the information recently reported and a thorough investigation of facts and circumstances, we now believe that our data cleaning techniques may not have been sufficient to fully anonymize the browsing data WoT users shared with us. While we deployed great effort to remove any data that could be used to identify individual users, it appears that in some cases such identification remained possible, albeit for what may be a very small number of WoT users. Of course, if the data allows the identification of even a small number of WOT users, we consider that unacceptable, and we will be taking immediate measures to address this matter urgently as part of a full security assessment and review.
We hope to earn back the trust of the community by implementing a set of measures which will ensure that those who prefer not to share their data can easily choose to keep their data private while still participating in the WOT community.
Regarding the relaunch of WOT – we received a notice from the Mozilla store that they were removing our add-on from the store pending answers to certain questions. We decided to remove WOT from the other platforms at our own initiative so that we could have the time to study the feedback we have been receiving and to make appropriate changes.
We are now preparing to relaunch an updated version of WOT which will include the appropriate measures to regain the trust of our users.
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