Click Tracking Blocker: Circumventing Click Tracking of Organic and Sponsored Links in Major Search Engines

Abstract Download Project Staff


Search sponsored link, also known as pay per click (PPC), cost per click, is the most important revenue source to all major search engines. To maintain this profitable service, search engines must ensure that they can track accurately which sponsored links have users clicked on search engine result pages (SERPs). For this purpose, all sponsored links return to their search engines first before being redirected to the corresponding target websites. However, we discover that all sponsored links for all three dominate search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) actually contain the real URLs of target websites by using simple encoding techniques. We have developed a program called Click-Tracking Blocker, in the form of browser plug-in, which modifies search result pages once they are retrieved by users’ computers, such that search engines will no longer be able to track users’ clicking behaviors on both organic (non-sponsored) links and sponsored links. Click-Tracking Blocker works for all three major search engines. It is transparent to end users and does not affect users’ search and browsing experience. We have conducted extensive experiments and found Click-Tracking Blocker has close to 100% successful rate. We provide some recommendations on how search engines can improve click tracking mechanisms such that tracking cannot be easily circumvented while still maintaining high search performance.


Please note: These prototypes are intended for demonstration purposes only. It may have security vulnerabilities and programming bugs. They are based on GreaseMonkey platform.

                This is the standalone Java code to test thousands of sponsored links from search engines to see if our sponsored link decoding algorithms give back the same webpage content or not.

Project Staff:

UCF Data System Group Lab