Characterizing the use of browser-based blocking extensions to prevent online tracking

Arunesh Mathur, Arvind Narayanan, Jessica Vitak, Marshini Chetty

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

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Browser-based blocking extensions such as Ad blockers and Tracker blockers have provisions that allow users to counter online tracking. While prior research has shown that these extensions suffer from several usability issues, we know little about real world blocking extension use, why users choose to adopt these extensions, and how effectively these extensions protect users against online tracking. To study these questions, we conducted two online surveys examining both users and non-users of blocking extensions. We have three main findings. First, we show both users and non-users of these extensions only possess a basic understanding of online tracking, and that participants' mental models only weakly relate with their behavior to adopt these extensions. Second, we find that that each type of blocking extension has a specific primary use associated with it. Finally, we find that users report that extensions only rarely break websites. However when websites break, users only disable their extensions if they trust and are familiar with the website. Based on our findings, we make recommendations for designing better protections against online tracking and outline directions for future work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 14th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2018
PublisherUSENIX Association
Pages103-116
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781939133106
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Event14th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2018 - Baltimore, United States
Duration: Aug 12 2018Aug 14 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 14th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2018

Conference

Conference14th Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security, SOUPS 2018
CountryUnited States
CityBaltimore
Period8/12/188/14/18

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality

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