Lots of users ask themselves why are they bombarded with certain advertisements and their concern increases when such advertising is related to sensitive issues such as health, dating services or political parties. But, what do advertisers really know about us and our interests? As an answer to this question, members of the Data Transparency Lab (DTL) and Carlos III University from Madrid (Spain) have developed Eyewnder, a Chrome extension that analyzes online advertising that allows to identify if the ads we watch have been retargeted, filtering ads based on or browsing history; or if they are just contextual, that is, the advertising is commonly shown to all kind of users.
Eyewnder is an add-on that identifies all the ads that are shown while browsing and collects demographic data from users (age, gender and employment status). The tool, which is currently a prototype, creates a visualization of our browsing history that identifies which information is being given to advertisers. That way when an offensive ad is displayed we can click on Eyewnder’s icon and get information about the type of users that have also seen the same ad and determine if it has been targeted because of our browsing or in a contextual mode.
The Eyewnder team is composed of Data Transparency Lab members, a project supported by Telefónica, AT&T, INRIA, Mozilla & MIT Connection Science which aim is to bring users tools to protect their personal data and promote online transparency. Among them are Nikolaos Laoutaris, DTL Chief Scientist and Costas Iordanou and Rubén Cuevas from Carlos III University. Cuevas received a DTL Grant in 2015 for his project “Facebook Data Valuation Tool” an app that shows how much money Facebook earns thanks to users’ browsing through the social network. DTL guarantees that the data treated by Eyewnder is anonymous and the tool does not get any personal identifiable information, nor browsing history, or any other identifiers such as cookies, etc.
In words of Nikolaos Laoutaris “The tool is in a beta phase and is already available for Chrome users. By now it allows to visualize our browsing history and the categories in which we have been assigned based on our browsing. This includes the second query level that shows which visited sites have assigned certain categories to us. I’m confident that in due time Eyewnder will be able to detect if an ad has been retargeted or not, but we need active participation from users. We need more users to compare which users have been shown an offensive ad to determine if it has been contextual or retargeted depending on our profile.”
More information and Eyewnder download: www.eyewnder.com
More information about Data Transparency Lab: www.datatransparencylab.org