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Nov. 2013, Vol. 27

'Cookie stuffing': A data scientist takes on seamy side of online ads

Ever feel like it's getting harder to tell the machine from the human? For Claudia Perlich, distinguishing between the two is just part of the job. She's the chief scientist for Dstillery, an advertising technology company that aims to match online customer interest with specific brands and products. So, when Perlich's predictive models nearly doubled in performance within the span of two weeks, a red flag went up. "One rule for data science: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true," Perlich said during a webinar preview for the upcoming Strata + Hadoop World 2013, where she'll be presenting. In fact, Perlich was pretty convinced the spike in performance she saw was the work of bots -- Web robots that simulate human behavior and are known to defraud display advertisers. In some cases, bots are sent to hit fake websites, artificially inflating traffic numbers to make the ad space seem more valuable. In other cases, scammers and bots are even more insidious, affecting commercial websites with something ...

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