Tell me what you browse: Using browser tracking to study (political) information behaviour

Makhortykh, Mykola; Maier, Michaela; Aigenseer, Viktor; Ulloa, Roberto; Urman, Aleksandra; Christner, Clara; Gil-Lopez, Teresa; Adam, Silke (7 September 2021). Tell me what you browse: Using browser tracking to study (political) information behaviour (Unpublished). In: 8th European Communication Conference (ECREA 2021) - "Communication and trust". Online. 06.09.-09.09.2021.

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The formation of a high-choice media environment and the growing reliance on digital platforms as a source of political information offer new challenges for studying (political) information behaviour. The inability of users to reliably identify and recall their information consumption patterns prompts the need to go beyond traditional self-reported measures of information behaviour. One possible solution is automated tracking of user online behaviour via desktop/mobile devices. It allows researchers to identify participants’ information behaviour more reliably, but it also requires a complex research infrastructure for capturing and processing data. Furthermore, the use of automated tracking raises multiple ethical concerns such as the ones related to participants’ privacy and research transparency. In our talk, we reflect on the possibilities and risks associated with the use of automated tracking for studying information behaviour. Drawing insights from our project on the relationship between populist radical right attitudes and (political) information consumption, we present a research infrastructure developed to track user browsing behaviour via screen-scraping and discuss the multiple challenges related to its implementation. In particular, we elaborate on the process of integrating ethical concerns held by participants and researchers into the design of a tracking tool and scrutinize difficulties associated with the development of a robust backend infrastructure for capturing and storing tracking data. We also review different forms of raw data generated via screen-scraping-based tracking and discuss how they can be processed and used for answering specific research questions concerning political information behaviour.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Communication and Media Studies (ICMB)

UniBE Contributor:

Makhortykh, Mykola, Urman, Aleksandra, Adam, Silke


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Mykola Makhortykh

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2021 14:17

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:53

Uncontrolled Keywords:

tracking, methodology, information behavior, infrastructure, behavior research


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