Assistant Professor Catherine Yang

Web surfers should know they may leave a series of mouse tracks, or a “clickprint”—a unique pattern of online behavior based on the number of pages viewed per session, the number of minutes spent on each Web page, the time or day of the week the page is visited as well as other actions. Assistant Professor Catherine Yang and her co-author, Assistant Professor Balaji Padmanabhan of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, have developed a method for identifying users based on their online browsing behavior. In their study titled “Clickprints on the Web: Are There Signatures in Web Browsing Data?” the authors develop formal methods to determine the optimal amount of user data that must be aggregated before unique clickprints can be deemed to exist. Their main objective with this method is to deter online fraud, which costs the Internet economy billions of dollars annually. But the same information could also be valuable for Web marketers. For instance, Web retailers can distinguish users by monitoring surfers’ browsing behavior and tracing clickprints. E-commerce companies can then match this user information to existing site visitor data. This can help companies build better Web sites that take into account Web shoppers’ buying preferences, Web surfing habits and design preferences. It gives companies data to customize Web content and product offerings according to consumers’ Web surfing habits. Yang’s research was covered in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on September, 24, 2006.