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The Bizarre Accuracy of Online Ads

A Case Study of Trackers on the Internet


From 2018-2019 Techtopia student, Sarp Gurakan:

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.


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