Big friend is watching you

Analyzing online social networks tracking capabilities

Abdelberi Chaabane*, Mohamed Ali Kaafar, Roksana Boreli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

19 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we examine web user tracking capabilities of the three major global Online Social Networks (OSNs). We study the mechanisms which enable these services to persistently and accurately follow users web activity, and evaluate to which extent this phenomena is spread across the web. Through a study of the top 10K websites, our findings indicate that OSN tracking is diffused among almost all website categories, independently from the content and from the audience. We also evaluate the tracking capabilities in practice and demonstrate by analyzing a real traffic traces that OSNs can reconstruct a significant portion of users web profile and browsing history. We finally provide insights into the relation between the browsing history characteristics and the OSN tracking potential, highlighting the high risk properties.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2012 ACM workshop on Workshop on online social networks
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9781450314800
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
Event2012 Workshop on Online Social Networks, WOSN 2012 Co-located with SIGCOMM 2012 - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 17 Aug 201217 Aug 2012


Conference2012 Workshop on Online Social Networks, WOSN 2012 Co-located with SIGCOMM 2012


  • online social networks
  • privacy
  • tracking

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