I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me. Measuring Online Behavioral Advertising

17 Feb

Rubén Cuevas Rumin, Assistant Professor, Department of Telematics Engineering, University Carlos III of Madrid, Spain

In-house Presentation

Online Behavioral targeted Advertising (OBA) has risen in prominence as a method to increase the effectiveness of online advertising. OBA operates by associating tags or labels to users based on their online activity and then using these labels to target them. This rise has been accompanied by privacy concerns from researchers, regulators and the press. In this paper, we present a novel methodology for measuring and understanding OBA in the online advertising market. We rely on training artificial online personas representing behavioral traits like ‘cooking’, ‘movies’, ‘motor sports’, etc. and build a measurement system that is automated, scalable and supports testing of multiple configurations. We observe that OBA is a frequent practice and notice that categories valued more by advertisers are more intensely targeted. In addition, we provide evidences showing that the advertising market targets sensitive topics (e.g., religion or health) despite the existence of regulation that bans such practices. We also compare the volume of OBA advertising for our personas in two different geographical locations (US and Spain) and see little geographic bias in terms of intensity of OBA targeting. Finally, we check for targeting with do-not-track (DNT) enabled and discover that DNT is not yet enforced in the web.

About Rubén Cuevas

Rubén Cuevas Rumin was born in Madrid, in 1981. He obtained his Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Telematics Engineering and M.Sc. in Telecommunications Engineering at University Carlos III of Madrid (Spain) in 2010, 2007 and 2005 respectively. Furthermore he received his M.Sc. in Network Planning and Management at Aalborg University (Denmark) in 2006. He is member of the Telematics Engineering Department and NETCOM research group since 2006, where he is currently Assistant Professor. Between January and December 2012 he was Courtesy Assistant Professor in the Computer and Information Science department at University of Oregon. In addition, from September 2008 until March 2009 he was intern in the Internet Scientific Group at Telefonica Research Lab Barcelona. He is coauthor of more than 50 papers in prestigious international journals and conferences such as IEEE Infocom, ACM CoNEXT, WWW, IEEE/ACM TON, IEEE TPDS, PlosONE or Communications of the ACM. He has been the PI of 6 research projects funded by the EU H2020 and FP7 programs, the National Government of Spain and private companies and associations and has overall participated in more than 15 research projects. Ruben’s main research interests include Online Advertising, Personalization and Privacy, Online Social Networks, Internet Measurements and Content Distribution. Ruben’s research in file-sharing piracy, online social networks and online advertising fraud has been featured in major international and national media such as The Financial Times, BBC, The Guardian, The Times, Wired, Corriere della Sera, O’Globo, El Pais, El Mundo, ABC, Cadena Ser, Cadena Cope, TVE, Antena3, etc. Ruben has been teaching since 2006 in different degrees and masters at UC3M including Telecommunications Engineering, Telematics Engineering and Computer Science. Moreover he was the Main Instructor of a Master/PhD course at the CIS department at University of Oregon in fall semester 2012.

Personal website

This event will be conducted in English


  • Location: Sala 1.1/2 IMDEA Networks Institute, Avda. del Mar Mediterráneo 22, 28918 Leganés – Madrid

  • Organization: NETCOM Research Group (Telematics Engineering Department, UC3M); IMDEA Networks Institute
  • Time: 01:00 am
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