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How Can and Would People Protect From Online Tracking?

Mehrnezhad, Maryam and Coopamootoo, Kovila and Toreini, Ehsan (2022) 'How Can and Would People Protect From Online Tracking?', Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, 1 . pp. 105-125.


Online tracking is complex and users find itchallenging to protect themselves from it. While the aca-demic community has extensively studied systems andusers for tracking practices, the link between the dataprotection regulations, websites’ practices of presentingprivacy-enhancing technologies (PETs), and how userslearn about PETs and practice them is not clear. Thispaper takes a multidimensional approach to find such alink. We conduct a study to evaluate the 100 top EUwebsites, where we find that information about PETsis provided far beyond the cookie notice. We also findthat opting-out from privacy settings is not as easy asopting-in and becomes even more difficult (if not impos-sible) when the user decides to opt-out of previously ac-cepted privacy settings. In addition, we conduct an on-line survey with 614 participants across three countries(UK, France, Germany) to gain a broad understand-ing of users’ tracking protection practices. We find thatusers mostly learn about PETs for tracking protectionvia their own research or with the help of family andfriends. We find a disparity between what websites offeras tracking protection and the ways individuals reportto do so. Observing such a disparity sheds light on whycurrent policies and practices are ineffective in support-ing the use of PETs by users.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2022 Maryam Mehrnezhad et al., published by Sciendo This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.
Date accepted:16 November 2021
Date deposited:03 December 2021
Date of first online publication:20 November 2021
Date first made open access:03 December 2021

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