Friday, January 24, 2014

The Rise of Panopticons: Examining Region-Specific Third-Party Web Tracking

Today’s web has a huge, diverse ecosystem of third party websites collecting information about users and providing them with content such as targeted advertisements. In this paper we study this ecosystem of third-party websites. We sample every continent, targeting the 500 most popular websites in the US, UK, Australia, China, Egypt, Iran and Syria. This allows us to contrast the commonplace, western-dominated views of the web with less studied countries. We find 2,097 third-party websites, reflecting the diversity of services and types of application/content they involve, e.g., advertisement, ad trackers, CDNs, news, sport, and pornography. We find those third-party websites offering ad tracking services to be the most prevalent. In addition to the usual suspects (e.g., DoubleClick and Google), we find a rich ecosystem of local third-party websites that are country and language dependent.

Marjan Falahrastegar, Hamed Haddadi, Steve Uhlig, and Richard Mortier, “The Rise of Panopticons: Examining Region-Specific Third-Party Web Tracking”, In Sixth Workshop on Traffic Monitoring and Analysis (TMA), London, UK, April 2014.