Tracking services are tools that collect data on a user’s browsing activity on the web; any third-party can insert a tracker into a website with the website’s permission. Without any more technical details, it is possible to see what trackers are embedded in a given website. As a part of Harvard University’s Techtopia program, housed at the Berkman Klein Center, we carried out a case study of which companies embedded trackers on two popular websites. We made use of the browser plug-in Privacy Badger, which lists and selectively blocks the trackers embedded in a website. The examples are pulled from the websites of Fox News and Easy Bib.
What follows is a discussion of the sheer number of trackers embedded in each website, the various types of trackers that range from the largest corporations to a long tail of lesser-known companies, and a whole structure of specific ad tracking services that are disturbingly effective.