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Browsing in Public

By MIT News

March 7, 2016

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed Eyebrowse, a system that enables Web users to share self-selected aspects of their online activity with their friends and the general public.

The goal is to give users, academics, and other scientists conducting research in the public interest access to browsing data that major Web companies currently collect and mine to better target products to individuals. In addition, the researchers say Eyebrowse could encourage changes in the regulatory environment that would give Web users more control over what type of data is collected and how it is used.

The researchers presented their work in a paper last week at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2016) in San Francisco. The paper describes the results of a survey of potential end users, which helped guide the system's design. The findings suggest Web users could find it beneficial to share data about their online activities.

"If people do buy into voluntary tracking, then maybe we don't need involuntary tracking, and that would be pretty wonderful," says MIT professor David Karger.

Eyebrowse currently consists of a website and an extension to Google's Chrome Web browser.

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