“Tracking Ecosystem Trends 2021”

VIScon Symposium, 15. – 17.10.2021, ETH Zurich & At Home

Date of this talk:
16th October 2021

ETH Hauptgebäude (HG):
HG building at ETH, Rämistrasse 101, 8006 Zurich.

VIScon, ETH Zurich & At Home


Internet Tracking Ecosystem Trends: Profiling, Microtargeting, Biometric Tracking, Political Manipulation … Where Do We Stand?

When the storming of the US Capitol was reported earlier this year, some media made a vague allusion to microtargeting. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, marketers talk of an “atomic bomb”. They fear that targeting will be made more difficult after one of the world’s largest corporations announced that IDFA would soon be opt-in. Some users are probably not aware of tracking and profiling with IDs like IDFA, AAID, and more conventional cookies or fingerprinting. Perhaps they have not yet become cognisant of the “explosives” in their pockets.

An “explosive” analogy may raise some questions: What, if any, is the manipulative potential of psychometric targeting? Could it even promote extremism? Or is it merely used for harmless advertising?

After a brief review of tracking and profiling methods, this talk intends to discuss tracking tech trends that followed regulatory measures worldwide.

Extended Description

Some of the trends worth discussing may include:

  • There seems to be a growing concern that manipulative effects may be underestimated.
  • In contrast, the question is increasingly being raised as to whether targeted ads are as effective as marketers make us believe. For example, the author of “Subprime Attention Crisis” thinks that “digital advertising is at risk of collapsing”. If he were right, what would that mean for free services some of us came to rely on?
  • With third party cookies or other identifiers being deprecated by some vendors, marketers now talk about zero, first, second and third party data. Buzzwords?
  • Finally, discussions about biometric tracking, especially face recognition, have intensified. A renowned magazine headlined what appears to be a simple question, but probably isn’t: “What happens when our faces are tracked everywhere we go?”

We can only delve into a small part of a wide range of social issues around the tracking ecosystem. For example, how (un)important or harmful (harmless) is comprehensive behavioural profiling, or what do we (not) want to do about it.


If the organiser intends to make presenatations or other media available for talks, they will probably be published after the event on the host’s website.

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