Evaluating trends of third-party trackers on the web

OData support
Dr. Gulyás Gábor György
Department of Automation and Applied Informatics

In the course of browsing the Internet, we can use countless services for free, in which we pay by accepting targeted advertisements and by receiving personalised prices. This originates from a data-collecting process, which operates in the background, mostly without the users’ consent. Trackers can create detailed user profiles through several websites that people visited. Companies build a business model on this process, since data collected from users represent serious values for them.

There are numerous ways how trackers can operate in order to track Internet-users, from which the most used one is called web bugs. In my thesis I put the emphasis on the examination of this method and the spread of related technologies. At the beginning of my work I discuss the current state of web privacy with a special focus on tracking, and after that I present a tool I developed specifically for measuring the extent of tracking.

Such a measurement can only be representative if enough people participate. Since it cannot be granted, after developing an extension, I decided to use a web privacy measurement framework - called OpenWPM - designed for research purposes. With the help of OpenWPM I was able to run automated analyses covering hundreds of pages. I thought it was a reasonable addition to my work and that is being said, I included it in my thesis.

I ran measurements in the range of Alexa global top 100, Hungarian top 100 and the children’s global top 100 websites, and also compared their results with each other. During this evaluation I found that on the Hungarian top 100 webpages there are twice as many trackers as on the global top 100, moreover, there are four times more trackers on the top 100 pages that kids are interested in. These results are quite unfavourable regarding kids online privacy.


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