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Web Tracking (1) - Definition and Facts

Rami AlbatalJun 28, 2019, 5:18:09 PM

In this series of blogs I am gathering information from various sources about Web Tracking and how avoid it. I will start first by high level explanation of Web Tracking and some statistics on who is tracking us on the web.

What Is Web Tracking?

The majority of the websites you visit are tracking you. They are collecting information about where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing on their websites.

Tracking is the collection of information about your use of or interaction with some web pages. Web trackers can collect more information than just your browsing of a website. Websites use Web Trackers not only to collect what pages you visited, but also personal information, like your IP address, from which website you came to the page (i.e. referrer), your geographic location and your browser and device characteristics.

How Does Tracking Work?

Three main methods are used for tracking: cookies, fingerprinting, and beacons. Websites may identify you with your login credentials, unique device identifiers or your IP address. Once a site determines your identity, it then assembles all the information it collects about you in a data profile.

    * Cookies: small files stored in your browser that help websites you visit often identify you. Websites use cookies to store your custom settings and preferences or log-in information. Cookies can add convenience to the sites you visit often, but unfortunately websites also use them to store your data.

   * Beacons: small, transparent “images” often 1 x 1 pixels, that load on on web pages (or within emails) for tracking and reporting purposes. Websites use beacons to get information about how many times visitors load certain pages. Advertisers use tracking beacons to determine how many impressions their ads get.

   * Fingerprinting: a more complex tracking method, based on checking your browser configurations and settings such as your browser version, monitor size and resolution, or operating system.

Who is tracking you?

Well, not a very good news, according to a study by Ghosteryaround 80% of website globally are using tracking.

Based on a study by researchers at Princeton University, the top trackers on the top 1 million internet websites. Google's trackers are on 75%, followed by Facebook with 25%.

Organizations with the highest third-party presence on the top 1 million sites. Not all third parties are classified as trackers, and in fact the same third party can be classified differently depending on the context. Source: http://randomwalker.info/publications/OpenWPM_1_million_site_tracking_measurement.pdf

In the light of these statistics, people who are looking for protecting their personal information need to be aware of what's happening to their data while browsing, and take actions to block Web Trackers.

In the next blogs I will clarify some aspect related to private browsing and provide some advises on how to stop or avoid web trackers.


* https://choosetoencrypt.com/search-encrypt/internet-tracking-why-its-bad-and-how-to-avoid-it/ 

* http://randomwalker.info/publications/OpenWPM_1_million_site_tracking_measurement.pdf