[This is a deep dive in an academic paper on some of the manipulations of your privacy data that the Data Lords engage in routinely.]
User data is the primary input of digital advertising, fueling the free Internet as we know it. As a result, web companies invest a lot in elaborate tracking mechanisms to acquire user data that can sell to data markets and advertisers. However, with same-origin policy, and cookies as a primary identification mechanism on the web, each tracker knows the same user with a different ID. To mitigate this, Cookie Synchronization (CSync) came to the rescue, facilitating an information sharing channel between third parties that may or not have direct access to the website the user visits. In the background, with CSync, they merge user data they own, but also reconstruct a user’s browsing history, bypassing the same origin policy.
In this paper, we perform a first to our knowledge in-depth study of CSync in the wild, using a year-long weblog from 850 real mobile users. Through our study, we aim to understand the characteristics of the CSync protocol and the impact it has on web users’ privacy.