The world wide web is not only the place for a large part of social, cultural and political life today but also for widespread tracking of users and behavior online. Tracking technologies (cookies, beacons, local storage, fingerprinting etc.) are used for a variety of purposes, including personalisation, social profiling, advertising, and analytics. These virtually ubiquitous practices, which are part of a huge industry but also raise significant privacy concerns, have played an important role in the shaping of the web, and still do so today. To contribute to the understanding of the development and spread of tracking technologies, this presentation offers a theoretical background for a historical study of tracking technologies and their impact on the web. To study the historical development of tracking, we need web archives, where the web of the past has been collected and preserved, but tracking technologies are not necessarily included in the materials available in web archives. Furthermore, working with archived web materials poses significant methodological challenges. The presentation will discuss, which possible traces of tracking technologies that can be expected to be found in web archives, and reflect on the different methods that might be applied in historical studies of web tracking.
Assistant professor in Media Studies at Aarhus University (AU), board member of the Centre for Internet Studies (AU), part of DIGHUMLAB (a Danish research infrastructure for Digital Humanities) as head of LARM.fm (a community and research infrastructure for the study of audio and audiovisual materials) and member of NetLab (a community and research infrastructure for the study of internet materials). Research interests include media history, web historiography, web archiving, cross media, digital media, public service media. Currently working especially on projects about the history of the Danish web and the development of tracking technologies on the Danish web.