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Janne Nielsen

Experimenting with computational methods for large-scale studies of tracking technologies in web archives

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The use of tracking technologies to collect data about web users and their online behaviour has played an important role in the development of the web. Most studies of tracking examine the current extent of tracking on popular websites on the online web, while historical studies are rare. Large-scale historical studies of web tracking are important for a more comprehensive understanding of the development, spread and implications of tracking technologies across the web. Historical studies of tracking are challenged by the lack of access to the original data flows in the tracking and by the characteristics of the archived web. This article proposes an approach to a web historiography of tracking, which focusses on the potentials of analysing the source code and metadata, which can be processed on a large scale. Using the archived Danish web as a case, the article describes an approach to studying web beacons in historical web data using computational methods, and showcases how experimenting with new approaches can bring new knowledge about the historical development of web tracking but also about the significance of understanding the technical aspects of archiving and archived web when using sources like source code, crawl logs and indices as data.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternet Histories: Digital Technology, Culture and Society
Pages (from-to)293-315
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

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