"Recommended For You": A First Look at Content Recommendation Networks


One advertising format that has grown significantly in recent years are known as Content Recommendation Networks (CRNs). CRNs are responsible for the widgets full of links that appear under headlines like “Recommended For You” and “Things You Might Like”. Although CRNs have become quite popular with publishers, users complain about the low-quality of content promoted by CRNs, while regulators in the US and Europe have faulted CRNs for failing to label sponsored links as advertisements.

In this study, we present a first look at five of the largest CRNs, including their footprint on the web, how their recommendations are labeled, and who their advertisers are. Our findings reveal that CRNs still fail to prominently disclose the paid nature of their sponsored content. This suggests that additional intervention is necessary to promote accepted best-practices in the nascent CRN marketplace, and ultimately protect online users.

ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC), 2016

[Paper] [Slides]

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