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B3: Monitoring, Ethics and Privacy
Analysis of the Ad-tech Industry Using Internet Browsing Data
HTW Berlin, Germany
Relevance & Research Question: Numerous ad-tech companies track and analyze the online behavior of internet users with the objective of placing targeted and/or personalized advertising. In order to prospect users with specific interests or to retarget users from prior website visits, ad-tech agencies rely on tracking technology, mainly cookies. While users browse the internet, an invisible network of third-party servers is called to deliver advertising based on waste amounts of data. In this research, we uncover this invisible network of tracking servers in order to gain an understanding of the state of the ad-tech industry.
Methods & Data: This study uses an innovative approach to research a B2B market: We have collected more than 100.000 lines of server calls in 80 browsing sessions of students of a German university. The data is collected using the Lightbeam Firefox Plugin. The calls of third party servers were classified as asset servers, analytics servers, advertising servers and widgets using Python scripts on an SQL database.
Results: Not surprisingly, we find that Google’s and Facebook’s third party servers are called by 78%/34% of sites per user. Consequently Google and Facebook are in an excellent position to track online user behavior and offer targeted, personalized advertising. On the other hand, most of the other 1.000+ tracking servers (some belonging to one company) are called by so few internet sites, that personalized advertising is technically impossible. As our study underlines the strong dependence of advertisers on Google and Facebook we argue, that those companies will continue to absorb strong shares in the advertising market. On the other hand we predict a consolidation of the “long-tail” of ad-tech companies that are too small to be present
Added Value: This paper describes the tracking methodologies used to enable targeted and personalized advertising. This paper also provides the reader with a description of an alternative data collection methodology which can be used for researching consumer behavior or company strategies.
The role of privacy concerns and computer self-efficacy in online job applications
Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, Germany
Relevance & research question
Over the past years there has been a strong increase in the use of online application systems in personnel selection. Considering appearance and functions, two major types of features can be distinguished: online forms and online testing. Online forms usually enable candidates to upload files or to enter personal information. Online tests are for instance used to examine an applicant’s skills, personality, or interests. Research shows that the perceived attractiveness and acceptance of online application systems have a substantial influence on the rating of such tools as well as the perceived image of the company using them. These perceptions and ratings have in turn a great impact on an applicant’s decision making. We assume, that these ratings are not solely dependent on the attractivity of an application system but rather on individual differences. Particularly, an individual’s privacy concerns may have an impact on how positively such an online application system is perceived. Furthermore, we assume that individuals high in computer self-efficacy, rate online applications more positively.
Method & Data
In our study N = 452 university students completed an online questionnaire. Participants were asked about previous experience with online application systems as well as about their rating of different features of these systems (e.g. uploading a CV, working on a personality test). Additionally, privacy concerns were assessed as well as computer self-efficacy and personality.
We expect that individuals high in privacy concerns generally give poorer ratings of online application procedures. Furthermore, it is assumed that higher computer self-efficacy leads to better ratings of online application systems.
In order to improve online application procedures it is important to assess individual perspectives on the different elements of the application process. Individual differences may play a crucial role when it comes to the rating of these systems. In furtherance of the constant improvement of application procedures, the study of individual differences may help to gain insights into applicants’ preferences allowing for the construction of more individualized measures.
An ethical compass regarding privacy within a digital society
Hochschule Macromedia, Germany
Big Data promises social benefits and new value-added chains, can improve health care and prevent crime. Big Data also describes invasive techniques that interfere with privacy. Related questions about ethical responsibility are not systematically practised, the desideratum of the systematic technology assessment is the starting point of this proposal for a conference contribution to Track B.
The current discourse ranges from the proposal to conceive privacy in the digital society as inalienable human rights (Baumann 2015) to demands for a ethical competence including a privacy competence (Grimm / Krah 2015) and up to a so-called post-privacy perspective. Seen from this perspective, privacy and privacy more and more become unrealistic and outdated (Heller 2013) in a networked world; the protection of personal data is regarded as ultimately impossible because even if one determines the criteria under which they are discounted, it is not possible to guarantee what could happen later (Seemann 2010).
The way the discourse is conducted suggests that the complexity of privacy intrusive infrastructures is widely underestimated. The ethically oriented reflection and thus the awareness of the value of privacy are overdue. This proposal is based on normative, ethical justifications of the right to privacy (dignity, autonomy, moral equality) and on social-ethical principles (solidarity, subsidiarity), as well as on questions of digital identity, freedom, tolerance and justice within the cyberworld (see Capurro et al. 2012). From this central ethical concepts for the protection of privacy can be derived: the paradigms of individual control (including informational self-determination), of responsible data processing and of solidarity.
Research questions: Which positions are represented? How are they justified? Who is being addressed? Who is responsible?
Method: Document-/platform-analysis. Sample: Research platforms, non-profit-oriented institutes, networks, associations, non-governmental organizations, activist groups (Internet Governance forums, Acatech, DIVSI, Forum Privatheit, Digital Society of Switzerland, Canvas, Privacy International).
Results: Process catalogue with ethical-based discussion topics, recommendations for codification, strategy; Key concepts: ethical compass, digital competence; watchdog, media discourse, mediation forums.
Added Value: Transfer to other facets of innovation development and self-determination within the digital society.
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