Web beacon

A web beacon[note 1] is a technique used on web pages and email to unobtrusively (usually invisibly) allow checking that a user has accessed some content.[1] Web beacons are typically used by third parties to monitor the activity of users at a website for the purpose of web analytics or page tagging.[2] They can also be used for email tracking.[3] When implemented using JavaScript, they may be called JavaScript tags.[4] Web beacons are unseen HTML elements that track a webpage views. Upon the user revisiting the webpage, these beacons are connected to cookies established by the server, facilitating undisclosed user tracking.[5]

Using such beacons, companies and organizations can track the online behavior of web users. At first, the companies doing such tracking were mainly advertisers or web analytics companies; later social media sites also started to use such tracking techniques, for instance through the use of buttons that act as tracking beacons.

In 2017, W3C published a candidate specification for an interface that web developers can use to create web beacons.[6]

An innocuous web beacon referencing a file on Wikimedia Commons


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  1. ^ Stefanie Olsen (January 2, 2002). "Nearly undetectable tracking device raises concern". CNET News. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  2. ^ Richard M. Smith (November 11, 1999). "The Web Bug FAQ". EFF.org Privacy Archive. Archived from the original on June 29, 2012. Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  3. ^ Richard Lowe Jr And Claudia Arevalo-Lowe. "Email web bug invisible tracker collects info without permission". mailsbroadcast.com. Archived from the original on December 3, 2017. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  4. ^ "Negrino, Tom; Smith, Dori. JavaScript para World Wide Web. Pearson Education, 2001. accessed 1 October 2015". Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  5. ^ Payton, Anne M. (September 22, 2006). "A review of spyware campaigns and strategies to combat them". Proceedings of the 3rd annual conference on Information security curriculum development. InfoSecCD '06. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery: 136–141. doi:10.1145/1231047.1231077. ISBN 978-1-59593-437-6.
  6. ^ Jatinder Mann; Alois Reitbauer (April 13, 2017). "Beacon". W3C Candidate Recommendation. W3C. Archived from the original on October 27, 2019. Retrieved November 7, 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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