We’re doing some web tracking research. We’ll be writing a bit over the coming months about why this is important, but here’s the gist of it: we live inside a gigantic, worldwide data market where details of everyone’s online behaviour are sold and traded every second, but we don’t really know much about who’s trading them or what gets made available. We plan to shine a light on this, in a way that can tell us how that market focuses its attention (or not) on particular places, and how that changes over time.

There are lots of fancy web tracking studies out there producing fascinating information about what’s going on with third-party cookies in different markets, but here’s the problem: those markets are usually in the US and EU, because those places have enough websites and traffic that you can study them using sophisticated methods. Our study is a little different: we are trying to get results on two really simple tests from every country on earth. So we will be able to being to tell whether the way people are tracked online by commercial firms looks different in Asia from Africa, or in Peru from Iceland.

Useful? We’ll find out. Possible? We’re hoping for people’s help with this. We have done about 25 countries so far, so if you are in any country that is middle or low-income, it’s likely we’re still looking for a collaborator in your location. We just need one set of results per country, and the test only takes five minutes. It doesn’t result in any of your personal information being sent to us (i.e. it doesn’t offer us any information about your browser, your previous online behaviour or anything). The results are just the features of the website you visited, and the trackers that tried to follow you when you visited it. The test involves using a Firefox browser, the Lightbeam add-on, and nothing else.

The resulting dataset, when we have put it together, will be the first global dataset on web tracking. We’ll be making it open, so anyone can use it. And if we can make it to all the countries we need, we aim to repeat it over the next few years to see how tracking changes in each place.

Can you help us? If so, send an e-mail to info (at) globaldatajustice (dot) org and we’ll send you the instructions.