Ad Targeting Tool Reveals How Advertisers Stalk Your Online Activity

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Columbia University researchers develop Xray tool to examine ad targeting.

Whether it’s a web cookie or a conversion pixel our online activity and behavior is being tracked and watched by advertisers. Sure, you can use anonymous browsers, cookie blockers and visit opt-out pages to minimize being tracked, but at the end of the day it seems that there isn’t any way to 100 percent eliminate online tracking.

Over the summer, ReadWrite spotlighted how ad targeting is becoming more evolved. So evolved, in fact, that researchers at Columbia University have started working on a web transparency tool that looks at how online activity and behavior correlates with the type of advertisement that will be served.

Still in its early stages of development the tools known as Xray is using search input, emails and viewed products to determine how product, price and service advertisements are being presented as a result of tracking that information. Early case studies have shown that Xray is able to predict advertisements with 80 to 90 percent accuracy.

Researchers hope to roll out an open source version in the near future. In the meantime, visitors are able to explore the ad demo service that looks at Gmail’s ad eco-system to predict ad serves and draw their own conclusions. Additionally, a complete research paper with in-depth findings is available to read online too.

We have no commercial relationships with any of the vendors discussed in this blog, and disclaim responsibility for them and their goods and services.

Photo Credit: Bogdan Suditu via CC

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Sarah Hartshorn is a marketing, public relations and social media professional with Vuze. She blogs about content, torrents, social media and a number of other tech topics. Sarah has been involved with traditional and digital marketing since 1998.