dark web data points
Gabe morazan headshot Posted by Gabe Morazan December 13, 2019

Hidden web tags and your data: New risks across the board

It’s no game – web tags are the chutes and ladders of today’s digital engagement. These short JavaScript programs run in-browser and are the primary delivery mechanism of the advertising and marketing technologies that determine the success (or failure) of digital campaigns.

However, hidden web tags, also known as “piggyback tags,” are less well-known. Because they are usually introduced through third-party vendors, piggyback tags are invisible to marketers unless specifically searched for and identified. In addition, since you can’t control what you can’t see, your company is also susceptible to any changes that third parties may make to their web tags.

Hidden web tags create new business risks

Piggyback tags expose your company to four systemic business risks:

  1. Customer loss due to poor user experience. Since piggyback tags can create painfully slow page loads, they can add multiple milliseconds of latency
  2. Non-compliance with consumer privacy regulations such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA)
  3. Data breach and leakage vulnerability through the open data connection piggyback tags exploit by merely existing on your site
  4. Erosion of trust among consumers and business partners since hidden tags collect inherently unknown data. Lack of trust translates into lack of revenue

The origin of piggyback tags

Web tags aren’t exactly new: they are a byproduct of the adtech (advertising technology) and martech (marketing technology) solutions that marketers have relied on for nearly two decades. But the dangers posed by piggyback tags have multiplied in recent years, due to the massive growth of martech (today, there are more than 7,000 martech solutions alone) combined with the evolution of a data-hungry adtech industry powered by information exchange.

How hidden web tags infiltrate your website

Widgets, embeds, and tracking pixels are typically deployed through web tags; these resources, such as a Twitter feed or social media button, use HTML and/or JavaScript to display data on your company’s site.

Nearly every time you add a tag to your website, that vendor gets access to your user data. But also, so do their business partners, through hidden piggyback tags. The purpose and behavior of hidden tags, which are injected indirectly into your site by these third parties through JavaScript redirects, are almost always obscure and can change daily, based on the tag owner’s desires.

Multiplied across a large digital property, you could easily have hundreds or even thousands of hidden web tags.

How to keep core business assets out of jeopardy

Comprehensive web tag management can categorically reduce risk by eliminating suspect piggyback tags. By proactively monitoring your digital properties’ web tags (both visible and hidden), you and your marketing team significantly help your company to:

  1. Protect customer experience, trust, loyalty, and revenues
  2. Reduce compliance risk by adhering to consumer privacy regulations
  3. Reduce the risk of data breaches and leakage
  4. Continuously build consumer and business partner trust

Continuous web tag management comprises four steps:

  1. Scan your site to identify all visible and hidden web tags using manual, automated, and real-time options
  2. Identify the vendors the tags belong to
  3. Research the vendors to see what these companies do, and what types of visitor information they collect
  4. Eliminate unwanted tags with just a few clicks

Because many tags on your site are likely to be invisible, you will need a couple of purpose-built tools to help you find and eliminate unwanted piggyback tags.

  • Tag mapping tools pinpoint the hidden web tags on your website, running a deep scan to reveal the full scope of your tag ecosystem
  • Tag investigation and removal tools provide an extensive vendor directory containing detailed information about each supplier, the type of data they're collecting, and what they're doing with it. Unwanted third-party tags can be easily removed.

Tools for a winning tag management operation

Look for solutions that allow your digital marketers to identify:

  • All of the JavaScript tags on a site, including hidden piggyback tags
  • What kind of resources the tags are calling
  • Which data the tags collect
  • The impact of each tag on site performance

Using the right tools can provide site performance gains with load times on specific pages dropping considerably.

With the right tools, your entire marketing team can deploy martech and adtech with confidence, while ensuring continuous protection of the security, compliance,and performance of your digital experiences.

In my next blog post, I will talk more about the four major business risks that proactive tag management help reduce.

Get a FREE scan of your entire web presence, the first step toward eliminating critical business risks across the board.