Advertising and computer science students focus projects on protecting consumer privacy

In the advanced, interdisciplinary course ADV 492: Technology and Advertising Campaigns (cross-listed with CS 468), students from across majors—including advertising, computer science, and computer science + advertising—create team-based research projects to investigate and find solutions to a real-world problem in digital advertising and marketing. In Spring 2020, the project theme was "protecting consumer privacy in digital advertising." Professor Mike Yao, head of the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising, taught the course.


The student team Ad Trackers examined how to improve the user experience and interaction design of Facebook's privacy and ad settings.

"We engineered the Ad Tracker to give you control over the ads you see and to provide you an inside look into data collected by advertisers," the student team said.

One of the goals of the team was to develop a way to encourage users to interact with their ad preference settings. Their solution was to design an "Ad Tracker" button to appear on Facebook’s toolbar for all registered users. On the ad tracker page, a pie chart shows the content majorities of advertisements served in the past 24 hours, seven days, and month, organized by product category, and their respective percentage of impressions.

AdTracker 1

AdTracker 2

"Naturally, users are curious to see what data is being collected on them," the team said in their report. "This tracker unveils this information—which is normally difficult to locate or unavailable. When the user lands on the tracker page, they can immediately adjust the type of ads viewed."

The Ad Tracker team included advertising students Megan Galbreath and Evan Hawkins, and computer science students Deepika Gudavalli, Samantha Park, and Russell Seligmann.



The student team Zucked developed a project to improve Facebook's data practices and help users understand how Facebook collects, stores, and uses consumer data, and how users can control their data. 

Their solutions included creating an option for users to select what type of personal information they want to share with Facebook; an abridged data policy that briefly summarizes what Facebook's privacy policy is; a box for advertisement settings where users can decide which ads they want to see and from which groups; highlighting a summary on Facebook's data policy for the section on 'How is this information shared?'; and adding privacy policy links on the Facebook sign-up page.

Zucked 1

Zucked 2

The Zucked team included advertising student Jeff Cutler, CS + advertising student Mihir Thatte, and computer science students Akhil Chainani and Priyanka Chopra.