Working paper: Cookies, Higher Education institutional websites, and data capitalism

Recently, I wrote a short paper about the use of cookies on UK Higher Education institutional websites. This is something which I think is interesting as it links the representation of Universities online to broader issues about data capitalism, privacy and information flows.

I used a tool called Tracker Tracker from the Digital Methods Initiative to survey cookies used by UK HEI websites, and discussed the findings in a short paper for a conference. Alas, the paper did not get accepted for the conference, but two of the three reviewers felt it was a decent short paper on a timely issue, so I have uploaded it to SSRN, abstract below and paper available here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3142312

Degrees of Intrusion? A Survey of Cookies Used by UK Higher Education Institutional Websites and Their Implications

The use of institutional websites to represent Universities online is ubiquitous within the UK Higher Education sector. The institutional website provides a single point of entry for anyone seeking information about an institution; as a digital representation of the university, from elements of a prospectus to showcasing research outputs, its potential audience is wide ranging. However, the use of cookies potentially changes the relationship with the audience, as they allow tracking of users and targeted interactions with the institution particularly through social media platforms. While the use of such data collection and marketing is standard for commercial websites, to what extent is this appropriate and what are the implications for the Higher Education sector? This work-in-progress paper will provide an initial exploration of this question through a survey of cookies used by UK Higher Education institution websites.

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