An Automated Approach for Complementing Ad Blockers’ Blacklists

Authors: David Gugelmann (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Markus Happe (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Bernhard Ager (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), Vincent Lenders (armasuisse, Switzerland)

Volume: 2015
Issue: 2
Pages: 282–298
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/popets-2015-0018

Download PDF

Abstract: Privacy in the Web has become a major concern resulting in the popular use of various tools for blocking tracking services. Most of these tools rely on manually maintained blacklists, which need to be kept up-to-date to protect Web users’ privacy efficiently. It is challenging to keep pace with today’s quickly evolving advertisement and analytics landscape. In order to support blacklist maintainers with this task, we identify a set of Web traffic features for identifying privacyintrusive services. Based on these features, we develop an automatic approach that learns the properties of advertisement and analytics services listed by existing blacklists and proposes new services for inclusion on blacklists. We evaluate our technique on real traffic traces of a campus network and find in the order of 200 new privacy-intrusive Web services that are not listed by the most popular Firefox plug-in Adblock Plus. The proposed Web traffic features are easy to derive, allowing a distributed implementation of our approach.

Keywords: Privacy; Web; tracking; advertisement; analytics; blacklist; HTTP; network measurement

Copyright in PoPETs articles are held by their authors. This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.