Do Retargeting And Clickstream Cause Profiling?


Internet, which mediates an infinite flow of information to everchanging parties, in one side preserves its continuity through diversifying and increasing its contents while on the other side gradually improves its quality and efficiency by focusing on the users separately. Retargeting and Clickstream are also two of the methods serving to identify the user and provide service specific to this identification. In present study relevant methods and their risk to cause profiling will be analyzed in general terms.

What is Clickstream?

Clickstream is analyzing and quantitively explaining the user’s click series on the website with the intend of determining user behaviors and routines. With a more detailed explanation, Clickstream method is used to create a behavioral user profile through analyzing data such as; the previous and posterior sites visited, visit duration of the relevant website, pages visited within the relevant website and visiting order of these pages. Clickstream analyzing method, which serves to specify users’ habits, behaviors and interests is intensively used by e-commerce companies. By this means, companies can move both their website contents and structures to a more practical and proper level.

What is Retargeting?

“Retargeting”, which is considered as the key to effective advertising, can basically be defined as creating customized advertises based on the previous searches of the user. Within the context of retargeting, which includes not only the present users but also the potential users in as its target group, different practices may be used considering their benefits. For instance; the current visitors may be preserved through continuously updated information letters provided without any expectation of a sale or membership. Another example may be using feeless trial or membership links to reach potential users. Besides these, present users may be directed to services related to their interests determined in accordance with their previous interactions.

Retargeting method is a dynamic advertising type, which continuously changes depending on the profiles of the target users. As an example to this explanation; directing advertises of hotels in Paris to a user who has previously searched for a hotel in Paris able the user to be redirected to products or services he/she has previously searched for.

Risk of Profiling?

Advantages of Clickstream and Retargeting methods are not limited with the ones provided to service provider party such as; maximization of sales and advertisement, development of customer satisfaction and protection of sale strategy actuality and efficiency. They also advantage the user through providing a fast and easy process. In contrast, profiling risk, which can be referred as an appearance of the related methods are only affecting the data owner/ user. What should be assessed here is, if enough attention was paid to principle of proportionality and privacy of personal data within the analyzes.
The processing and analysis of personal data play a big role in commercial activities, whose target audience is data owners. Even though Clickstream and Retargeting are functional for providing efficient and customized service by focusing on the target user, personal data used within these purposes pose a great risk on privacy of personal data and profiling.
Both Clickstream and Retargeting techniques use personal data of target group of users consisting of real persons to serve the customizing purpose. Beside this, by Clickstream as a method which does not remain limited with the actions within the visited Website it is very hard for the data owner to stay informed about every personal data processed and give consent relating to the matter. In both method purposes may be legitimate but the data processing within these techniques will still pose a great risk on the necessity of interference to the privacy.
Depending on the analyzed activity of the website, products or services searched by visitors, users or customers may result in processing of their general and sensitive personal data such as; health, sexual, religious information. For instance; a search of a medicine for a specific sexual illness or pregnancy may constitute an unlawful interference of data owner’s/user’s state of health and sexual life. Such like, using these methods in reading websites may result in processing users political and religious opinion without any consent. Even these examples do explicate the profiling risk that may be actualized by these methods of analyses.


Despite certain differences, both Clickstream and Retargeting serve for the same main purpose. These methods, which are particularly used in e-commerce, create user profiles based on the behaviors, habits and interests of users by analyzing their search history, visit duration, their path through the visited web sites etc. type of data and provide customized services for these profiles. Reviewing the balance of interest; both parties advantage from the methods though the efficiency and easiness of the service they provide or get but only target user, whose visiting process is followed, is facing risks of profiling and violation of privacy. In an environment where the importance of personal data protection increases continuously, proportionality of these interfering methods stays as a question to be answered.