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New Study Uses Bots To Track the Trackers


December 3, 2013

Forbes reports on a new study led by researchers at Princeton University and Belgium’s KU Leuven to discover patterns of discrimination based on traits such as affluence levels. Advertising and marketing firms often keep their tracking methods obscure, making it difficult for privacy advocates to demonstrate how the commercialization of online data can isolate consumers into their own “filter bubbles.” To circumvent that, the researchers have released bots that mimic real consumers—including fake profile traits such as age, gender, affluence level, location and interests—to come to a better understanding of how online businesses track, categorize and possibly discriminate against individuals. The research is being led by Princeton Prof. Arvind Narayanan—one of the early progenitors of Do Not Track. A spokesman for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said, “We welcome research into privacy and technology issues, and we look forward to reviewing the research results.”
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