February 08, 2012, 3:10 PM — Just as it enjoys an initial surge of popularity, a new social networking site called Pinterest is also experiencing its first bout of controversy. Observers are accusing the site of secretly embedding code in user content to generate revenue.
In a blog entry posted Tuesday, Josh Davis detailed how the company embeds tracking code into links users post on their Pinterest pages.
According to Davis, when a user posts, or pins a link to an e-commerce site that Pinterest has a business relationship with, Pinterest will append to the link tracking code for that e-commerce site. Pinterest then gets paid whenever someone purchases an item that has been pinned. Other bloggers have commented on this practice before, but it received relatively little attention prior to Davis' own post.
This practice is problematic in that Pinterest made no disclosure about the practice to its users, Davis charged. "Pinterest likely should disclose this practice to users even if they aren't required to do so by law, if only to maintain trust with their users," Davis wrote. Other users have expressed concern as well. "I'm more than happy to allow Pinterest to make money from my pins ... But I feel like a disappointed parent ... because I wish they would have just told me," wrote BlogWorld contributor Allison Boyer.
The charges are coming about as Pinterest is undergoing a massive surge in popularity. While still in a closed beta stage, the site saw almost 11 million visitors in one week in December, almost 40 times the number of visitors six months prior, reported analysis firm Hitwise.
Launched in early 2010, Pinterest is already the Internet's 109th-most-popular site, according to a live snapshot from website tracking service Alexia. And last month, analysis firm Shareaholic reported that Pinterest generated more referral traffic than social networking giants LinkedIn, Google+ and Reddit.