Cross-Device Tracking An FTC Staff Report January 2017

Cross-Device Tracking An FTC Staff Report January 2017

The Federal Trade Commission has examined online behavioral advertising since the mid-1990s, when the internet first emerged as a commercial medium. Since then, the FTC has hosted workshops, issued reports, promoted self-regulation, and developed principles for the online behavioral advertising industry. Throughout this time, the FTC has worked to keep pace with new technological developments in this area, from the use of cookies to track consumers’ browsing behavior, to the use of non-cookie technologies, to cross-app tracking, and now, to the tracking of consumers across their numerous devices. The FTC’s workshop on cross-device tracking is part of a series of efforts to explore emerging issues in the area of online behavioral advertising.

Cross-device tracking occurs when platforms, publishers, and ad tech companies try to connect a consumer’s activity across her smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and other connected devices. The goal of cross-device tracking is to enable companies to link a consumer’s behavior across her devices.

Cross-device tracking serves several purposes. It can enable consumers to log into their email or social media accounts from multiple devices and have a seamless experience. It can also allow consumers to “maintain state,” so they can pick up where they left off in a book or movie that they were viewing on a different device. Cross-device tracking also facilitates companies’ efforts to prevent fraud, as they learn which devices typically access consumers’ accounts.

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