Adnostic: Privacy Preserving Targeted Advertising

Vincent Toubiana, Arvind Narayanan, Dan Boneh, Helen Nissenbaum, Solon Barocas

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

188 Scopus citations


Online behavioral advertising (OBA) refers to the practice of tracking users across web sites in order to infer user interests and preferences. These interests and preferences are then used for selecting ads to present to the user. There is great concern that behavioral advertising in its present form infringes on user privacy. The resulting public debate — which includes consumer advocacy organizations, professional associations, and government agencies — is premised on the notion that OBA and privacy are inherently in conflict. In this paper we propose a practical architecture that enables targeting without compromising user privacy. Behavioral profiling and targeting in our system takes place in the user’s browser. We discuss the effectiveness of the system as well as potential social engineering and web-based attacks on the architecture. One complication is billing; ad-networks must bill the correct advertiser without knowing which ad was displayed to the user. We propose an efficient cryptographic billing system that directly solves the problem. We implemented the core targeting system as a Firefox extension and report on its effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2010
Event17th Symposium on Network and Distributed System Security, NDSS 2010 - San Diego, United States
Duration: Feb 28 2010Mar 3 2010


Conference17th Symposium on Network and Distributed System Security, NDSS 2010
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Control and Systems Engineering


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