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Online Tracking By News Organizations Is Excessive, Say Researchers

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Watching the watchers.

News organizations permit far greater use of third-party tracking than the average website does, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

Credit: nevarpp/iStock

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found that news organizations permit far greater use of third-party tracking than the average website.

Victor Pickard and Tim Libert used software called webXray, developed by Libert, to detect third-party tracking. Libert says webXray works by looking for third-party HTTP requests and matching them to the companies that receive user data. "In other words, webXray allows you to see which companies are monitoring which pages," he says.

Pickard and Libert used webXray to analyze the top 100,000 websites as rated by Alexa, and found users of the sites were exposed to an average of eight external servers. However, the number was far higher among media companies. Pickard and Libert found that, "among the 2,000-plus news-related websites identified by Alexa, readers are, on average, connected to over 19 third-party servers--twice as many as the 100,000 most popular sites."

Some major media companies had even higher numbers. The New York Times homepage, for example, connected to 44 third-party servers and The Los Angeles Times website connected to 32. The researchers say such connections make it difficult for Web users to avoid third-party tracking of their online activities without resorting to the use of ad-blocking software.

From TechRepublic
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Abstracts Copyright © 2015 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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