Is It Illegal To Track Third Party Visitors?

Professional Marketers,

I would like to ask if it is illegal to track visitors of third parties.
Meaning, if I track your website visitors without your awareness but with the awareness of your visitors who allow me to track them, then would that be illegal in any way or form ?


Imagine, I dropped you an email with any of the 2 messages like these:


Dear Sir/Madam,

We have noticed that one of our members HAD visited your website.
Would you like to:

  • View which of your webpages they visited (in order to understand what they were searching for);

  • Contact them to ask them what they were searching for. And, possibly make them better offers if you find they have not made any orders to you;

  • Checking their footprints on your site may reveal to you if this was a customer lead or a competition keeping tabs on your pages and their products.
    If it was a potential customer then you can make them offers.
    If it was a competition then you can learn which of your products are being targeted by your fierce competition and maybe make amends on your packages to make them more attractive over your competitions.

We cannot guarantee that, they have not made any purchase yet to one of your competitions.
We are able to supply you with all the links of your site our member visited.
Supply of each link would cost you only $0.10USD.

We are able to forward your marketing message to our member. Each 10 line message would cost you only $10USD.



Dear Sir/Madam,

We have noticed that one of our members ARE CURRENTLY visiting your website.
Now, before they hit the BACK button or EXIT your website to go over to your COMPETITIONS, would you like to:

  • View which of your webpages they visited and ARE CURRENTLY visiting (in order to understand what they were searching for);

  • Contact them to ask them what they ARE searching for. And, possibly make them better offers.

  • Checking their footprints on your site may reveal to you if this was a customer lead or a competition keeping tabs on your pages and their products.
    If it was a potential customer then you can make them offers.
    If it was a competition then you can learn which of your products are being targeted by your fierce competition and maybe make amends on your packages to make them more attractive over your competitions.

We are able to provide you with a popup that will help you TRAIL them LIVE from each of your webpages for monitoring purposes.
We are able to supply you with all the links of your site our member visited.
Supply of each link would cost you only $0.10USD.
We will enable you to message your marketing message to our member LIVE RIGHT THIS INSTANT while our member is STILL in their BUYING MOOD (with their credit card in their hands) before they exit your site to headover to your competitions.
Each 5 line LIVE message would cost you only $20USD.


Now, from a business/website point of view, does this message and it’s leads providing message seem appealing to you or not ? I reckon it would. But that is just me thinking.

Don’t ask me:

  1. Which of my members would allow me to monitor their internet surfing like that.
  2. Technically, how would I perform the monitoring.

The answers to these questions are my trade secret.
I just need you to provide me your opinion from a business/website/marketer’s point of view.

Imagine, I run a Social Network and/or a searchengine that provides you with this service.

A. Would you spend more time on these Social Networks and searchengines (you are currently using) or would you rather spend that time over at my site to hunt for customer leads ?

B. How much time each day would you spend on a site like this that helps you fish for customer leads ?

C. How many days of the week would you spend on a site like this that helps you fish for customer leads ?

D. A site that provides a service like this. Do you reckon it would defeat all the following top sites in the world ?


E. Anything else I need to know ?

PS - I am not wasting your time asking irrelevant questions.
I am serious. I have a few new online ideas that revolves around hunting for leads in unique ways. No good programming the php scripts to run the ventures if the public won’t use the services. Hence, the research here.
The tracking & monitoring would be done with the permission of my members. No spyware.

PPS - Anybody would like to partner in this venture ? If so, you will have to contribute on the coding alongside me.

Thank You

I imagine that would depend on what kind of information you were collecting and how you intended to use it.

No. What that seems like (and, indeed, is) is Spam. Sending unsolicited e-mails is Spam, never mind whether you think they’re useful or not.

For A, B, C and D, the answer is that I would have no interest in using your site.

There are several reasons reasons for that.

Firstly, there is no way to know why somebody has not placed an order on my site. It might be because they were browsing from public WiFi and didn’t want to risk it, but they’ll order when they get home. Perhaps they want to ask somebody else’s opinion about which product to choose. Or perhaps they were looking for something specific which I don’t offer. I cannot imagine any of those scenarios would be improved by me sending Spam messages to the visitors, but I can envisage that the visitors might be annoyed at receiving the message and go elsewhere.

Secondly, nothing would persuade me to join your site to use this service. I do not want you (or anybody else) following me round the Internet to see where I go any more than I want you following me down the High Street to see what I buy, or into the library to check on what I’m reading.

I think you would have a real struggle getting sufficient members in the first place to make this a service anyone would consider using, especially as you intend charging for it. Google Analytics already provides a great deal of information free of charge. Unless you had a very wide user-base, the chances of your members visiting my sites would be quite remote.


Yes, it sounds like what you would be doing is replicating what Analytics is already capable of doing for free.

IMHO a better tact would be to use the expertise you have using Analytics to offer a support service.
That is, AFAIK, most Analytics users focus almost exclusively on backlinks data instead of internal links.

Yet internal links can be very important. eg. Are site visitors using the hamburger menu, the navigation links, in-content links? On what pages are site visitors abandoning the path to conversion?

If you could help site owners set things up and help them analyze the data I think you could have a good chance of having a profitable business.

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As far as I’m aware it’s not strictly illegal in most countries since Adtech already tracks people across sites with the purpose of advertising at them. However in Europe we have the upcoming GDPR regulations which will prevent you from using most customer data unless you seek permission first, else you risk a huge fine.

I agree with @TechnoBear though, it does seem somewhat spammy and an invasion of privacy.

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Thank you TechnoBear, Mittineague and Blue Dreamer for your inputs.

I had a feeling that, you guys would be put-off from this service thinking it won’t get off the ground since the public won’t allow me to monitor their internet surfing. Hence, it is irrelevant whether the online businesses/websites would find interest or not in the service. I knew you would say it is unrealistic. That is why, I mentioned right at the beginning to only see things from a business’s point of view and not the consumers.
In this line of business, unless the consumers like the service and allow me to monitor them then the venture fails to get off the ground. No good if the businesses like the service. I know all this. I’m a consumer myself and so I know what a consumer wants or not. I’ve got into their heads (so to speak). I’ve got into the businesses heads first and I saw they would snatch at the chance to get such a service but I wanted to be extra cautious on another issue (which I have not mentioned yet but would do below a little). Hence, wanted to see things from the business’s point of view through the eyes of real businesses. I know, or guess, some of you wonderful guys are hard core business men and so was asking for your opinions.

Ok, here are some more insights into my idea.
Your point is: Google analytics provide you with enough insights into your visitors to figure-out what they were searching for and so my idea is not anything new. But, does Google analytics allow you to message your lost visitors ? Are you able to ask them for feed-back why they left your site ? My idea is to put you in a position to get the feed-back and send your marketing materials to them. Can Google analytics allow you to do all that ? If my service allowed you to do all that, then would you still stick to Google analytics only and ignore my service ?

And my most important question of all is, would you be able to sue me for tracking your website visitors and revealing this to the public domain ? My service won’t be doing anything that different than what the Social Bookmarking Services are doing. They’re publicly displaying who of their members have bookmarked (favourited/liked) your webpages. This is giving your competitions the chance to learn who your potential customers are and the Social Bookmarks make it possible for them (your competitions) to contact your bookmarkers and make them offers. I don’t see you (businesses I mean) suing them for revealing who their visitors are. And so, maybe I am worrying for nothing. Right ?

Those visitors whom I send-over to you. If you have a problem with my service making it public that they visited your website then I can always barr your site from my network. I can provide you with a feature so you can unlist your website from my network so that your website is no longer listed on my network and my service no longer forwards you any visitors. Do you reckon this feature would help me stay out of trouble with the law ?
Let’s assume, for arguments sake, that you as a business, did not like my service monitoring your visitors on your site (even though your visitor, who I sent over to you allowed me to do it to help them shop better and to receive the incentives my service provides them). If you file charges against my service, then would the law come and shut my whole service down or would they legally be able to force me to stop monitoring your visitors who I sendover to you ?
Since, by law, you or the law can’t prevent ISPs, DNS caches, Cache proxies, Web proxies, Vpns from tracking and/or recording the surfing habits of your visitors (their users) then I guess I’d be on the safe-side of the law. Right ? It all depends on what the consumer (my member/your visitor) permits. Correct ? I mean, if they allow me to monitor their surfing on your website then by law, who are you to interfere ? Right ? I got one programmer in another forum telling me I’m getting scared for nothing. He points-out that, different countries have different laws. Which business is gonna file lawsuits half across the world to sue me just because I happened to monitor their visitor who I sentover to them ? I didn’t fully reveal my business idea on that forum. Just mentioned that, I want to run a Social Bookmarking site that allows businesses to contact their competitions’ bookmarkers and make offers. I wanted to know if the competitions would be able to sue me or not for selling their visitors out. I got my reply. That they won’t be able to sue me. The service I talk about here is not a Social Bookmark, though. I just tailored my question (on that forum) around a Social Bookmarking Service just to get an idea from there if businesses would be able to sue me if I auction out their visitors who I sendover to them.

Why do I get the feeling you guys would agree and say the same ? I get the feeling you would say, the trouble (if any trouble comes my way that is) won’t be from the direction of the businesses but more likely from the direction of my members (consumers/visitors) and so I need to worry about that. But, I’m not worried about that. Like I said earlier, I won’t monitor any of my service members without their permission. They’d willingly allow me to do it for helping them shop better and for the incentives. I already have friends telling me they’d allow me to do it. I just need to go public with it. I’m not gonna reveal my trade secret here to what the incentive is for my members/visitors/consumers as I don’t want others jumping on the idea and copying it giving me the elbow. I want to be the first to get the concept up and running. I know others would follow suit but I don’t care aslong as I am the first person to get the ball rolling.
I will only reveal this much. The members/visitors/consumers would have a 50-50 chance of earning a viral income through my incentives. Hence, they’re willing to allow me to monitor their internet surfing and make it public.
That’s all for now.

Any feedback from anyone is welcome. And remember, I want feedback from you from a business’ point of view. Not from the consumer’s. The consumer, I have already got all willing (so to speak). I just need to make sure no business/website would be able to sue me for making it public who their visitors (my members) are and what my members (their visitors) are doing on their websites. Nor be able to sue me for providing their visitors (my members) as leads to their competitions. I mean, if I go to your competitions and provide your visitors (my members as leads) mentioning they’re your visitors and/or bookmarkers, then would you be able to sue me ?

PS - I am not trying to sell you this service here. Trying to sell anything to programmers in a programming forum is not a good idea. I can always sell the service on internet marketing forums, groups, mailing lists, social networks, classifieds, etc.
I just want your opinions, from a business’ point of view. That’s all. That way, I don’t waste time on a fruitless venture, building a php script around it while I am still learning php.

PPS - Don’t worry about how I am going to manage to find members who would allow me to monitor their internet surfing like that. Count me as an expert on that. And, don’t worry about my members complaining that you spammed them. Infact, they’d be expecting the right business to approach them with offers.
I know from a consumer’s point of view, the service would be valuable enough to go viral. Already got the green light on one part of the world. it might not work on all parts of the world, especially where people are too privacy conscious or fussy about their privacy. I can assure you, a lot of people from many parts of the world are willing to give-up a little privacy if it will make their lives easier to shop for bargains quicker with less time consuming and/or earn them a little incentive on the side while shopping over the traditional way of shopping where you search for businesses and their products via the searchengines.

Thank you for your inputs! :wink:

Take care! :slight_smile:

You seem to have missed my point that sending unsolicited e-mails is Spam. If somebody visits my site and signs up to my newsletter, special offer mailings or whatever, that’s fine. They have voluntarily given me their contact information and chosen to receive communications from me. If they have visited my site and left without interacting with it, they have the right not to be harassed by marketing e-mails from me. Sending Spam is itself illegal in some countries.

But how can you ensure that only the right businesses approach them? If you’re monitoring their general Internet use, how do you know what they actually think about any site they visit?

As I said, the legality or otherwise of your idea will depend on what information you are gathering, and how you are using it.

Every service I’ve seen which accumulates visitor data does so in an anonymised way; it is not possible to identify individuals from the data. You set out specifically to track individuals, and then to sell their browsing information to websites, and facilitate the sending of Spam messages from these sites. I think that is probably where your greatest legal issues will lie. (Personally, I can’t see anybody agreeing to allow you to track them, knowing how you intend to use the information, but that’s just my opinion.) You would also need to be very sure that whatever information you obtain is securely stored.


I reckon you are asking the wrong question in the wrong place. I think before you spend any more time on this project, you should contact an experienced Internet lawyer and find out exactly where you stand legally. If you run into trouble with national governments or the EU for violating laws, saying “but somebody on a forum told me it was OK” will not help.

Put like that, it sounds very like gambling, which will open you up to a whole new area of the law.

@TechnoBear has answered everything, but I’ll add that the whole subject of privacy + tracking is a very hot topic now, just the other day Apple announced they are adding tracking protection into the Safari web browser, others will follow. Most other browsers currently rely on extensions to block, ads, tracking and other potentially invasive stuff and usage is rapidly increasing, others like Brave and Opera have various built in data blocking tools.

The point really is that it’s the probably wrong time to introduce a cross site tracking system, those who currently use that sort of tech like advertising and adtech companies are really feeling the pinch right now because of the whole privacy thing.


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