Document Type


Lead Author Type

CIS Masters Student


Dr. Andrew Kalafut,

Embargo Period



Web Tracking, Private Browsing


Is utilizing the internet truly free? Unfortunately, it is not. What is given up in exchange for accessing the web is information about oneself. Businesses utilize the internet’s capabilities to harvest data about consumers. This process is called web tracking. This study aims to shed light on how we are tracked, the ways we can protect themselves, and why our data is deemed so significant.

The three technological tracking methods focused on in this study included cookies, browser

fingerprinting and web beacons. A cookie is as a collection of data points that aim to enhance the experience we have when interacting with a website. Browser fingerprinting is the process of constructing a “signature” made up of the settings, tools, and plugins associated with a browser. Web beacons are small pieces of content that embed themselves inside a web page.

Along with discussing defensive measures that can help protect our data, actual tests were ran to validate effectiveness. Two websites were used for the tests. Dicks Sporting Goods, a medium sized U.S. based sporting goods store and Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus, a small local Grand Rapids based sporting goods store. Step by step directions were provided to the reader taking them through the process of applying some of the guards, such as installing the Ghostery browser plugin, or viewing the websites in “incognito” mode and seeing how they affected my ability to be tracked.