Getting tracked by the city’s new website

29 Jul

Mayor Peter Carlisle sends out a press release:
(July 28, 2012)—Mayor Peter Carlisle today joined City information technology professionals and citizen participants for a unique “Write-a-thon” to create content for the new Honolulu Answers website that provides easy-to-find information about the City and County of Honolulu.

The new site is at http://answers.honolulu.gov .

“Our new Honolulu Answers site is designed to be simple, resident-focused and easy to use,” Carlisle said. “Some great people have pitched in to help formulate clear, helpful answers to common questions.”

Nice idea.

Except something is very, very wrong.

Follow with us.
Here is a picture of the web site he talks about.

If you click on one of the answers, you get another page with a few answers to some common questions.

Picking on one of the few answers available will take you to one of the answers where this logo is displayed at the bottom of the page.

So far, that’s okay.
It is a partnership with these people.

But we are taking it further and click on the logo to see who these people are.
Sometimes something interesting pops up – like now.

This is their website.

Except there’s a coding error that allows one to see something that normally is hidden.

Some menu selections are at the bottom of the page.


Selecting the one that’s circled takes us here:

Along with this description of what they do:

They do PR and advertising work for political campaigns.

That is not as bad as it seems, many advertising companies get business where they can.

This is what’s bad.
Look at the code for their error page that brought us here:

This is not the simple “cookie” tracking that almost all sites use.

Without seeing all the code we can’t take it much further, but there is no reason why a city website should be doing this type of tracking of its citizens that visit it.

Or maybe the city doesn’t know about it and we only found it because of sloppy programming.
Maybe this company that does political advertising is tracking people going to the city website.

Maybe it’s nothing.

Regardless, we think we’ll stay away from there.

2 Responses to “Getting tracked by the city’s new website”

  1. Anonymous July 29, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    excellent investigative reporting; let’s hope the Star picks up on it so it can get wider coverage.

    • Honolulu Notes July 29, 2012 at 6:16 am #

      We didn’t chase it as far as we’d like and right now there’s a lot more questions than answers – but still troublesome.

      Honolulu Notes

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