Tracking the Trackers: Towards Understanding the Mobile Advertising and Tracking Ecosystem
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Third-party services form an integral part of the mobile ecosystem: they allow app developers to add features such as performance analytics and social network integration, and to monetize their apps by enabling user tracking and targeted ad delivery. At present users, researchers, and regulators all have at best limited understanding of this third-party ecosystem. In this paper we seek to shrink this gap. Using data from users of our ICSI Haystack app we gain a rich view of the mobile ecosystem: we identify and characterize domains associated with mobile advertising and user tracking, thereby taking an important step towards greater transparency. We furthermore outline our steps towards a public catalog and census of analytics services, their behavior, their personal data collection processes, and their use across mobile apps.