Why we made Webclew?
Have you ever tried to tally up all cookies and trackers on a corporate website? The first time I tried, it took me 3 months to survey technical and legal colleagues to end up with a far from complete list. I looked for better tooling such as the Ghostery browser plug-ins. Yet a sigh of relief usually turned into disappointment after discovering the tool did not register it all. Every time I opened my manually assembled cookie spreadsheet, I stared at the screen for a few breaths: ‘there has to be another way’.
Why is this a hard problem?
First, the codebase of a corporate website is outsourced to third parties. Transparent documentation on what these parties do is few and far between. Commercial and legal agreements with these parties are very high-level, while technical documentation lists all possible cookies and requests for a generic configuration. Next, website functionality comes and goes like fashion trends. Even if development teams deploy solid Devops practices, privacy professionals are not in the loop of such changes. Finally, websites don’t deploy swiss army knife technology; they have a set full of slightly different knives. Websites cherry pick from the idiosyncratic advantage from tens to hundreds analytical and advertising partners for specific types of functionality.
Others must have solved this?
Even if inventorying one’s website is hard, others face this problem as well and surely have figured something out. As a member of a digital media sector body, I asked how other publishers tried to stay abreast of cookies and trackers. It turned out they didn’t. We then launched a tender to multiple global vendors and only found candidates that didn’t meet our requirements or required messy hacks to existing software that was not fit for purpose.
If we can’t buy, can we build?
I reached out to Maarten and Dries and here we are. Webclew was born from my understanding of online privacy and advertising combined with Dashdot’s expertise in building software and the inner working of the web. We aimed to design a tool that meets specific technical requirements of publishers and other companies personalizing the web experience, while allowing non-technical users to get start ‘tracking the trackers’ without any training.
If you managed to find our website and read this post, we would love to get in touch and listen to the challenges you have in monitoring your website(s).