New Scientist article New York, NY—February 19, 2016—For the first time, researchers have identified a specific type of digital ad that has been using a web page for almost a decade, according to a study published online February 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Ads have been a pervasive part of the web experience for a while, but until now we didn’t know how they were happening,” said Daniel M. Zagaris, the Benjamin T. and Margaret L. Smith Professor of Physics at the University of New Hampshire and a co-author of the study.
“This study shows that ads in web pages are a common practice, but how are they getting around?”
Zagares and his colleagues found that a new type of ad—a web-based tracking cookie—was being used by a subset of ads that they were able to identify.
The new research could help the web’s developers and advertisers better understand the impact of these ad-blocking technologies, the researchers said.
The researchers also identified a subset that were able in the past to successfully evade detection by ad blockers.
In other words, they found that these ad blockers were using a cookie that was uniquely identifying them, which is part of what makes it such a useful target for researchers to study.
The team was able to find ads in several domains, including Amazon.com, eBay, and Google.
These ads did not use a tracking cookie, but they also did not show up in any other domains, indicating that the ad network was not trying to hide them from the tracking cookies.
The authors believe that the cookie may be a way to circumvent ad blocking.
“If we want to be able to detect when a cookie is being used, we need to be aware of it,” Zagarians said.
“That’s the reason why we think this kind of tracking cookie is important.
We want to understand if ads are hiding in web browsers, and what other ad blocking techniques are out there.”
Ad blocking and tracking cookies are ubiquitous on the internet today, but these technologies are only a small part of a much broader problem.
“A lot of people are not aware that ad blockers and tracking are part of their browsing experience,” Zegaris said.
This is because ad blockers like Google AdBlock Plus and Microsoft Edge do not allow them to see tracking cookies on the websites they visit.
Researchers are beginning to understand how ads use tracking cookies to manipulate people’s behavior, and they have a good idea of how that might be affecting their web browsing habits.
“We have a lot of work to do before we understand how to make ads less malicious, but it’s a start,” Zaganas said.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Berlin and at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in the United States have found that ad blocking can cause real-world problems, such as speeding up browsers.
For instance, some browsers block the ability to access websites from certain countries and groups of users, such that some websites do not load.
This may be the reason the AdBlock software used by many websites is not as effective in preventing ad-blockers.
Other research has found that tracking cookies have an impact on privacy, and the researchers have also found that blocking them may have the unintended consequence of increasing the amount of information people share about themselves online.
For example, a new study from EFF found that users who had a tracking page open for a social network (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) had their Facebook privacy settings reduced by 35 percent.
EFF’s research suggests that people who have a tracking app open for their social network may share information about themselves with other people without their permission.
Zaganaris said that he hopes that this research will help scientists better understand how ad blocking and other ad-based blocking technologies are affecting web users.
“The more we understand about these technologies, we can use it to design better web advertising,” he said.
To find out more about how ad-tracking cookies are used, visit the EFF website.