UK watchdog probes legality of multi-platform ad tracking software

Britain’s Information Commissioner is examining whether a US company whose technology lets advertisers track users from one device to another should be allowed to operate in the country. Californian-based Drawbridge already claims to have a database of 200 million users whose profiles come from analysing ‘cookies’, following trails of clicks and indicating the likelihood of whether they emanate from a single person.The data, it’s claimed, can then be used to follow users irrespective of if they switch from, say, a laptop to a smartphone, thus allowing advertisers to target them with products and services relevant to their interests.

Though the data contains no login names or location information and instead relies on ‘bridging algorithms’, Drawbridge says that users’ web habits alone are sufficient to target them precisely and follow them across different web browsing platforms.

“We are triangulating the user’s behaviour. As we observe them, we are able to hone in,” Drawbridge CEO Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan told the MIT Technology Review.

Even so Britain’s Information Commissioner, responsible for overseeing data privacy matters, has already said that before Drawbridge could launch in the UK it would need to prove its data was genuinely anonymous and that it couldn’t be used by others to unravel a person’s identity.

Said a spokesman, “In addition, any advertiser using its service would also have to do a good job of telling people why they keep seeing particular adverts.”