Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-9 - 54

Fig. 1. ORM architecture.

of the resources loaded by the inspected websites. Selenium is
a tool for automatized web experiments that acts as a wrapper of real browsers, like Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or,
in our case, Chromium, the open source alternative version of
Chrome. On the other hand, the Chrome DevTools protocol is
a protocol developed by Google, and present in both Google
Chrome and Chromium browsers, that allows to inspect all of
the parameters, functions and information being processed internally by the browser.
This combination was selected to allow us to collect all of
the resources and information included in the website, even
if the code is obfuscated, whether the resource resides in the
main site or in the third-party loaded resources. This way of
taking the complete dataset of the entire explored population
allows us to employ data-mining techniques to find common
patterns and characteristics not usually visible. In comparison,
most of the current active measurement research focuses only
on the already known tracking methods, avoiding obfuscation and preventing them to be used to find new web tracking
algorithms.
Fig. 1 shows a diagram of the overall system architecture
and its different modules. Each Selenium instance maintains
two browsers, one of them with a custom plugin loaded. The
54	

Driver Manager is the module in charge of loading one or more
instances of Selenium with the needed plugins to perform the
experiments, opening the websites and recovering in case Selenium becomes unresponsive. The module interacts with
the Data Manager module, in charge of exploring the network
events to look for resources to translate to real URLs that the
Driver Manager can download. Lastly, all of the data is saved
in a common database storing the collected information.

Example Results
To show the capabilities of ORM, in this section we present the
results of a proof-of-concept experiment that analyzes the current state of web tracking on the Internet. For this purpose, we
used ORM to collect a large dataset with information of the top
100,000 most popular sites according to the Alexa's list [16].
ORM took seven days to collect the dataset. The infrastructure
used was two Ubuntu 16.04 LTS servers in parallel with a combination of 30 cores, 60 threads and a total of 64 GB of RAM.
The resulting dataset occupies more than 250 GB of data, and
contains approximately 20 million resources, including the
pages that loaded each of them. The information can be used
for other multiple purposes, such as studying the geographical interaction between the different domains or third-party

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	

December 2020



Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-9

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