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Cross-device Tracking Technology Used To Spy On Users

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Marketing companies have come up with a rather ingenious way of tracking the behavior of their target audience. As per reports published by several media outlets, many ad firms are now relying on cross-device tracking technology to collect analytics data for their marketing campaigns. The technology represents the next generation of tracking consumer behavior and could also be used by the intelligence agencies to snoop on ordinary citizens. Many large companies such as Google and Adobe are also experimenting with the technology for tracking user behavior.

What Is Cross-Device Tracking Technology?

Cross-device tracking refers to the process of tracking consumer behavior and creating consumer profiles by collating data from multiple devices. The process involves embedding high-frequency sounds within browsers, mobile apps or TV ads which are totally inaudible to human ears but can be picked up by special Smartphone apps that are built for tracking purposes. Using the technology helps the marketing companies to track user behavior stealthily and even gather data that would otherwise be impossible to collect (such as the length of time for which the TV ads are being watched). The technology allows marketing companies to collect more accurate analytics data and permits product creators to get better returns on their investments.

SilverPush, an India based company, is at the forefront of implementing cross-device tracking technology. As per the data provided by the company, the technology is currently being used by about 100 marketing companies. By embedding high frequency signals into TV ads, mobile apps and browsers, these companies are able to track the behavior of about 18 million Smartphone users. While the company did not divulge details regarding which apps are tracking consumer behavior, experts believe that currently less than 10 Smartphone apps are using the technology. SilverPush also revealed that the technology is currently being used only in India.

The stealth nature of the technology has raised alarm bells among civil liberty groups and privacy advocates. Center of Democracy and Technology (CDT) has shot off a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warning about the inherent dangers of the technology. The letter warns that the technology allows marketing companies to gather invasive data such as the type of ads being watched, the amount of time a particular ad was watched before the user changed the channel and the type of devices the user possesses as well as create user profiles by linking multiple devices.

For users who are already overwhelmed with constant surveillance and tracking, the introduction of cross-device tracking technology is indeed a bad news. The technology is far more dangerous than other methods of tracking since the user isn’t even aware that his data is being captured. What’s more, apps using the technology do not offer a way to opt out of this method of tracking. Currently, the only way to stop being tracked via this method is to complete turn-off the microphone of your Smartphone or tablet. The use of the technology also indicates that marketing companies are ready to go to any length to collect analytics data for their marketing campaigns.

April 25, 2016

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