Ranking law prof blogs by digital privacy

I recently posted an "annual disclosure," which describes things like hits, costs, and privacy. Of note, this blog is not monetized in any way. At the moment, I have a fairly strong hostility to the notion that legal academics should monetize their blogs--not that I begrudge or hold it against any who do, but that I am not convinced it would do anything but pressure my blog toward a reduction in quality or an increase in real or apparent corruption. (For more on that, see my site disclosure.)

I thought it might be useful to rank the blogs of law professors based upon digital privacy. I used 66 blogs for this sample: the top 50 law professor blogs from a recent TaxProf ranking based on site traffic, and 16 other blogs of note (including my own), some of which are not law professor blogs but law-related blogs.

Every time you visit a site, you transmit information to that site. Presumably, the owner of the site (and anyone responsible for hosting the site) has access to that information. But sites may contain a number of items that may disclose your information to third parties--frequently, without disclosing it, and without your knowledge.

So, I used Ghostery to determine the "cookies, tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons" that are invisible to a site visitor, but that may (and frequently do) disclose information to third parties. It treats each tracking item as equal; it counts multiple tracking items from the same site (e.g., Twitter Badge and Twitter Button) as separate items.

In a sense, Ghostery is underinclusive. A site may internally collect data but does not need a tracker, because, well, the information is routed directly through the site itself, and there is no need to install a third-party tracking device. So, of course, you should assume that all sites contain at least one tracking device: the site itself. What the site collects and how it uses it varies from site to site.

Further, Ghostery is, alas, but one imperfect measure. When I recently did this test, I saw that some sites had different third-party trackers depending on when I visited, or from where. These rankings, accordingly, should be taken with a grain of salt.

One curious item is that utter lack of transparency on most sites--and some, ironically, operated by law professors who specifically write in the area of digital and online privacy. I'm hard-pressed to find on most of these sites a privacy policy or disclosure that your information is being shared with third parties, or that the site operators may profit from your activity on the site. Perhaps that disclosure is not the kind of thing one should expect--but it's one that I would hope to see more of in the future.

Among these 66 blogs, 87 different kinds of devices were used. The most popular include the following (with links to the Ghostery identification of the service and the information collected by the service, such as whether the information is anonymous, pseudonymous, or personally-identifiable information, and data retention policies, if available). Where available, I've included a link to the site's opt-out options.

Google Analytics (used by 56 sites) (opt-out options)

SiteMeter (48) (opt-out cookie)

Specific Media (46) (opt-out cookie)

Vindicio Group (46) (opt-out cookie)

Quantcast (40) (opt-out cookie)

ScoreCard Research Beacon (40) (opt-out cookie)

Typepad Stats (31)

The sites below are ranked based on the number of trackers. The lower the number, the fewer trackers. Rounding out the top three: Non Curat Lex, operated by Professor Kyle Graham, who bravely has not a single tracking device (and who, alas, has just retired from blogging); my own blog, which uses Google Analytics (as disclosed); Professor Lawrence Lessig's blog, which uses just Google Analytics and the Typekit by Adobe (which only collects anonymous information about the serving domain).

The rankings below are based on the total number of Ghostery items identified on the site; higher numbers mean more items. There are, I'm sure, other ways of calculating "digital privacy"; please let me know if you have thoughts in the comments.

Non Curat Lex 0

Excess of Democracy 1

Lessig.org 2

ACS Blog 3

Feminist Law Professors 3

How Appealing 3

Word on the Streeterville 3

Balkinization 4

California Appellate Report 4

Freakonomics 4

Point of Law 4

Discourse.net 5

Dorf on Law 5

Election Law Blog 5

Harvard Law Corp Gov 5

Lawfare 5

The Incidental Economist 5

Constitutional Law Prof Blog 6

Federalist Society Blog 6

IntLawGrrls 6

Legal History Blog 6

Turtle Talk 6

Sentencing Law & Policy 7

Sports Law Blog 7

Althouse 8

Antitrust & Comp. Policy Blog 8

ContractsProf 8

CrimProf Blog 8

EvidenceProf Blog 8

Instapundit 8

Legal Profession Blog 8

Legal Skills 8

Legal Theory Blog 8

Legal Whiteboard 8

Legal Writing Prof Blog 8

M&A Law Prof Blog 8

PrawfsBlawg 8

PropertyProf Blog 8


White Collar Crime Prof Blog 8

Workplace Prof Blog 8

Credit Slips 9

ImmigrationProf Blog 9

Leiter's Law School Reports 9

Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog 9

Josh Blackman's Blog 10

Legal Ethics Forum 10

Leiter Reports: Philosophy 10

Religion Clause 10

Conglomerate 11

Hugh Hewitt 11

Patently-O 11

TaxProf Blog 11

Witnesseth 11

Concurring Opinions 12

Nonprofit Law Prof Blog 12

Volokh Conspiracy 12

College Insurrection 13

Faculty Lounge 13

The Right Coast 14

Jack Bog's Blog 15

Opinio Juris 15

Legal Insurrection 16

Professor Bainbridge 20

Above the Law 22

Mirror of Justice 29