Does Wordle ‘secretly follow’ players? The New York Times responds

Wordle players may be unwittingly sharing data with ad companies amid claims that The New York Times (NYT) has “secretly stuffed” the game with ad tracking software.

A national newspaper reported how Ben Adida, a US-based software engineer and architect, responded to online discussions asking if the NYT had increased Wordle’s difficulty.

“The NYT didn’t change the game, but they sure did change the rollout. Lots more following,” the engineer told Twitter followers.

Advertising trackers – better known as “cookies” – are found on most websites and allow companies to remember you based on your preferences, internet searches and online habits.

Metro publisher GameCentral said there were “no warnings” about Wordle’s new ad trackers, adding that “one of the original attractions of Wordle is that it was completely non-profit, without hidden extras”.

GameCentral accused the NYT “of adding trackers from both the main New York Times website and those that send your data to third-party companies such as Google and Oracle.”

The Metro article reads: “This means that not only does Google and others know you’re using Wordle, and where you were when you did, but you’re now more likely to be served with advertisements related to The New York Times and any other he thinks people who like word puzzles are interested in.”

In response to the article’s claims, an NYT spokesperson said the Wordle game “has the same privacy policies as other Times properties” and “tracks less” data than the industry standard.

The NYT told Newsquest, “Wordle, which is now hosted on the Times domain, has the same privacy policies as other Times properties, including our other games.

“While The Times tracks less than is industry standard, we are constantly looking to improve privacy on our digital properties. We are also working on a range of solutions to improve industry practices.”

New York Times and Wordle

The popular online game, originally hosted on powerlanguage.co.uk, moved to the NYT website on February 11, 2022.

The NYT bought the ad-free website for a “seven-figure sum” from American software engineer Josh Wardle in January 2022.

Wordle “will initially remain free to new and existing players.”

Wordle creator Mr Wardle decided to sell the virtual puzzle after it became “overwhelming” to execute.

Millions of people around the world play the daily word puzzle every day.