News & Notes | Dec. 4

News & Notes: U. researchers examine how targeted advertising personalizes web experience for each user

In a study examining how the commercialization of online data has personalized web users’ experience, researchers at the University and Belgium’s KU Leuven have released “bots” that mimic the behavior of real people online, according to “Freedom to Tinker,” a blog hosted by the University’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

Their research studies the different personal experiences that arise due to the practices of companies like Google, which stores data on users’ web history and filters their search results based on this history. The study will compare the search results, ads, offers and prices shown to their various bots to determine what kind of discrimination occurs across different sites.

“What all these and many more examples have in common is that they are ways of using personal information for differential or discriminatory treatment,” assistant computer science professor Arvind Narayanan wrote in a blog post. “Our long-term goal is to be able to run the tool on a web scale to publish a frequently-updated ‘census’ of online privacy and discrimination.”

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