Craig Wills’ research cited by Wall Street Journal
The lead story on the inside section of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, “They Know What You’re Shopping For,” references work of CS Department Head Craig Wills.
The lead story on the inside section of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, “They Know What You’re Shopping For,” references work of CS Department Head Craig Wills. There has been much work measuring the extent to which third-party advertisers are in a position to observe and correlate user behavior across a broad range of first-party Websites. Wills has recently investigated what “they” (the advertisers) actually do with this information available to them.
In summary, his study of a few ad networks and a focused study of the Google ad network in particular found many expected contextual, behavioral and location-based ads along with combinations of these types of ads. He generally found that behavioral ads based upon induced interests were shown as categories in the Ad Preference Manager of the ad network. He also found unexpected behavior for the Google ad network in that non-contextual ads were shown related to induced sensitive topics regarding sexual orientation, health and financial matters.
In a smaller study of Facebook, he did not find clear evidence that a user’s browsing behavior on non-Facebook sites influences the ads shown to the user on Facebook, but he did observe such influence when the Facebook Like button is used to express interest in content. It appeared that Facebook ads seemed to target users for sensitive interests with some ads even asserting such sensitive information, which appears to be a violation of Facebook’s stated policy.
To find out more about Professor Wills’ research, you can read his recent publications.