You must have seen the message displayed below as you log on to many websites these days. These websites use technology to track visitors and learn about their web behavior. The purpose of the message ( e.g. given below) is to seek your permission to allow them to track you. Initially, they never used to seek any compliance from visitors, but GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation) of EU which got enforced from 25 May 2018 has made this compliance mandatory.
The message which blinks as soon as you log on websites reads like this:
To accept cookies continue browsing as normal or go to the Cookies Notice for more information and to set your preferences.”
Web user tracking
Let us now discuss the basics of this tracking process.
First, what is web user tracking?
Web user tracking is tracking of an internet users’ digital activity. It could be his surfing on a particular website or his journey between different websites. Such activities of internet users can be monitored and recorded. Today technology is available to carry out this process efficiently.
The technology used for this monitoring web users is advancing at a fast pace. Potential activities of a user that can be tracked and monitored include a user’s queries in search engines, the sites he visits, the frequency of visits, what he clicks, how long he stays on a site, the speed with which the user scrolls etc.
Internet users were not aware of such monitoring till recently as there was no transparency to the process. Users were not informed of the instance they were being tracked, how they were being tracked and by whom or for what purpose.
Web user tracking is tracking of an internet user’s digital activity.
In fact, the tracking happened without users’ consent. It was to curb this activity that EU has enforced strict regulation to protect the privacy of citizens through the GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulation).
The purpose of this act was to restore the control over one’s own data to the user by providing transparency to the act of tracking and making it mandatory for the website owners to take users compliance prior to the tracking process.
Now, let us try and understand who wants to track the internet users and why they want to do it?
Purpose of web user tracking
Websites track their visitors for many aspects. Let me explain three scenarios of tracking here.
1) Tracking of website users is done to scrutinize the statistics of a website’s function and performance. This kind of tracking is carried out using tools like Google Analytics. The owner of the website gets to know how the website is being used by users. This will help him in optimizing the websites’ performance after studying the metrics he collects from tracking.
2) E-commerce websites which normally do B2C business on internet use tracking as a means to discover their consumer behavior. The more information they have about consumers the better for them to optimize their reach.
These websites track actions of a user to find out his preferences, interests, and needs and subsequently present products to him in line with this information.
3) Advertisers use tracking to profile website users. This is to do targeted marketing to them. This profiling helps advertisers to do micro-targeting of their marketing precisely to the right consumers. Thus they display their ads to the most relevant potential consumers.
Web user tracking now plays a big role in the marketing industry. As technology develops further, it will play even a bigger role in advanced marketing.