Tracker Tracker

The tool Tracker Tracker uses Ghostery to detect in a set of URLs a predefined set of 'fingerprints' of web technologies, such as social buttons and trackers, and outputs a list of technologies used per URL.


The tool Tracker Tracker can be used to make (some parts of) the 'cloud' visible. The tool allows for the characterization of a set of websites or pages by detecting a set of 900+ predefined 'fingerprints' of cloud devices, including those that fall under the category of analytics, ad programs, widgets or social plugins, trackers, and privacy. Tracker Tracker may thus be used to gain an overall picture of detectable trackers or for a number of specified analytical purposes, such as social plugin detection, mapping 'power concentrations of the cloud' - mapping the political economy of the cloud, by looking at 'cloud technology'. For more information and example uses see the project page: Tracking the Trackers.

Disclaimer: The Tracker Tracker attempts to mimick the Ghostery output as closely as possible, but will not always succeed, due to:
1) the tool cannot click any notifications like 'accept cookies' and thus can't retrieve trackers beyond the cookie wall. This is especially relevant with European websites because they are required by law to indicate the presence of cookies.
2) the tool is not being run on a real browser but using a scripting language called phantomjs - therefore it may simply fail to load some content properly
3) some pages load different elements based on IP, device fingerprinting or randomly (for example an advertisement caroussel like the one found on

In the majority of cases though, the output between the tool and Ghostery should be similar.

Sample project

Analyze a set of URLs to see whether they contain widgets, analytics or another type of trackers:

1. Insert a list of URLs (max 100)

2. Choose only to retrieve the trackers for the inserted URLs or also to include deeper pages. This is for instance useful when detecting social plugins on news sites - they are commonly present on deeper pages and not on the frontpage. Make sure to specify the max. number of subpages (e.g. 2) that should be included because it will slow the tool down.

3. Output is a CSV or a Gephi file

4. Optional: visualize the connections between the websites and the trackers in Gephi

But what if my source set has a 1000 URLs and I want to visualize them all in Gephi?

We like medium-sized data too! The tool tends to slow down or break down when using a large number of URLs. We recommend inputting 100 URLs at a time and then combining the Gephi files.

How to combine the Gephi files?

1. Open a first .gexf file

2. Go to File > Open > select a second .gexf file > open

3. In the Import report dialogue select Append Graph, this will merge the two .gexf files (graphs)

4. Repeat step 2-4 to merge all your .gexf files into a single graph.

Other projects using this tool

Workshop Trackingthe Trackers
Track the Trackers Workshop by Anne Helmond Alexei Miagkov (Ghostery) for the Digital Methods Summerschool 2013 by Anne Helmond and Carolin Gerlitz for the Digi...

Topic revision: r6 - 17 Nov 2014, ErikBorra
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