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Surfing in sound: Sonification of hidden web tracking

Lutz, Otto Hans-Martin; Kroger, Jacob Leon; Schneiderbauer, Manuel; Hauswirth, Manfred

Web tracking is found on 90% of common websites. It allows online behavioral analysis which can reveal insights to sensitive personal data of an individual. Most users are not aware of the amout of web tracking happening in the background. This paper contributes a sonification-based approach to raise user awareness by conveying information on web tracking through sound while the user is browsing the web. We present a framework for live web tracking analysis, conversion to Open Sound Control events and sonification. The amount of web tracking is disclosed by sound each time data is exchanged with a web tracking host. When a connection to one of the most prevalent tracking companies is established, this is additionally indicated by a voice whispering the company name. Compared to existing approaches on web tracking sonification, we add the capability to monitor any network connection, including all browsers, applications and devices. An initial user study with 12 participants showed empirical support for our main hypothesis: exposure to our sonification significantly raises web tracking awareness.
Published in: International Conference on Auditory Display, 10.21785/icad2019.071, Georgia Institute of Technology