Track me but not really: device undercoverage and its consequences when tracking online behaviour.


Description: Metered data, also called “web log data”, “digital trace data”, “online behavioural data” or “web-tracking data”, has been considered as the best option to measure online behaviours, since it can track the real behaviour in an inobtrusive way. Metered data is obtained from a meter willingly installed or configured by a sample of participants on their devices (PCs, tablets and/or smartphones). A meter refers to a heterogeneous group of tracking technologies that allow sharing with the researchers, at least, information about the URLs of the web pages visited by the participants. To gain a comprehensive picture of individuals online activity, trackers should be installed on all devices an individual use and track all the behaviours that individuals do through their web-browsers and apps, in each of the networks they are connected at. Several problems can prevent this from happening. For instance, tracking technologies might not be installable in some devices or participants might decide not to install or configure the meter in some device, browser and/or network. These problems can cause 1) device, 2) bowser, 3) in-app and 4) network undercoverage. This can produce that all the information or part of the information of interest for a given participant is missing, which can introduce errors when aiming to make inferences about a theoretical concept for finite populations (e.g. average time spent visiting online news outlets for the adult population using Internet living in the UK). Therefore, in this presentation we explore the extent of this problem and its potential consequences.

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