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Who is following me? Tracking the trackers

Tracking the Trackers Download File

Date: 11 Jul 2012

Document Type: Briefing Papers

Tags: Internet Governance
, Internet Governance Forum (IGF), Policy, Privacy & Identity

A background paper for a workshop being co-organised by the Council of Europe and the Internet Society at the Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan on 8 November 2012.


Interest in online tracking as a policy issue spiked with the release of the Preliminary Federal Trade Commission Staff Report in December 2010 calling for a “do not track” mechanism, the launch of the W3C Tracking Protection WG and the recent entry into force of the so-called European “Cookie Directive” provisions. However, the actual and potential observation of individuals’ interactions online has long been a concern for privacy advocates and others. Much of the policy attention is currently focused on cookies used to track users to build profiles for more targeted advertising, but some of the more difficult issues are:

  • How to deal with less-observable tracking (e.g. browser and device fingerprinting, monitoring of publicly disclosed information)
  • DNT is only a mechanism for users to express a preference – How then do we provide a guarantee that the preference will be honoured?
  • How to develop laws that accommodate different tracking scenarios using different technologies (some of which are yet to be imagined), for example:

    • Different entities (law enforcement, companies, etc.);
    • Different and sometimes multiple purposes (security, personalising user experience, targeted advertising, malicious activity; etc.);
    • First-party and third-party tracking
    • Single site and multiple site tracking

The companion piece is considering how personal data may or may not be retained, used or disclosed after it has been collected – i.e. what happens post-tracking?

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