Researchers at Princeton University say they have conducted the largest study yet on the technology that tracks people's movements around the Web, focusing on the use of tracking code on the Internet's 1 million most popular websites.
The five most common tracking tools were all Google-owned, including Google Analytics, whose code was on nearly 70 percent of websites.
Although the systems that do the tracking are automated and no human likely looked at the data, consumers might not feel comfortable with the idea of information bouncing around multiple companies and algorithms outside of their control.
Research shows how Google's ad-targeting system can use information in ways that might be viewed as discriminatory, such as by targeting men but not women for ads about high-paying jobs.
In the study, Princeton professor Arvind Narayanan and graduate student Steven Englehardt surveyed the 1 million websites using OpenWPM software, which automatically visits websites using the Firefox browser and logs any tracking technology it encounters. The researchers found some companies silently send an audio signal to a person's browser, and slight differences in software and hardware can be used to identify a particular computer. However, they note the consolidation of power in Web tracking should make things easier for regulators and citizens to keep tabs on the trackers.
From Technology Review
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