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I'm curious about logging user actions across multiple tabs; is a user's actions across multiple tabs within a browser trackable? So from user's point of view is there an additional element of privacy in opening a new window as opposed to opening a new tab? i.e. can a website open in TAB 'A' use analytics tools to track a user's clicks in TAB 'B'?

UPDATE Yes of course I realize that if I go visit Amazon from 2 separate tabs they would know that I'm the same visitor because cookies are on; but if I'm on Amazon, and then go and type in a Barnes and Nobles URL in another tab say to price compare, can Amazon know that I went to visit Barnes and Nobles because it is in another tab in same browser? So that's to say I'm not going to B&N by clicking on any link the Amazon site itself (which they can monitor) but I'm keying in B&N on the 2nd tab and doing stuff there - can AMZ track my activity on B&N?

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well looks like UX SE NAME point of view has some logic to it - will digest what avinash kaushik's has to say abt google analytics - but it seems to difficult to believe that AMZ can know evrything I click on B&N if they do not own the B&N domain - so I agree with UX SE NAME at this point –  user20933 Oct 25 '12 at 2:19
    
I like this question, and I'd like to know the answer. Good one! –  Benny Skogberg Oct 25 '12 at 6:37
    
I'm not sure what this question has to do with user experience. –  dhmholley Oct 25 '12 at 8:22
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3 Answers

The answer to the updated version of the question is "No. Amazon does not know that you have Barnes & Noble on a different tab." Amazon has no access to the contents of other browser tabs unless those tabs contain a site that Amazon controls. The analytics tools only monitor the domains on which they have inserted tags/pixels/other tracking devices. Amazon cannot insert the tracking tag in the B&N site which means they know nothing about your presence on the B&N site.

...unless they are using a competitive intelligence tool like Hitwise or the now sadly retired DoubleClick AdPlanner where at least they can see in aggregate

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Yes absolutely it (or it's owners) can.

Web analytics tools like Google Analytics, content personalisation services like Maxymiser or Test & Target rely on cookies, unique to a browser not a tab, to calculate a session.

In fact it would be quite hard to get Google Analytics to track activity on the same site at the same time in a new tab as a new session, to the web analyst it would just look like a new page view in the same visit.

For more info, here's how Google Analytics calculates a session; http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/standard-metrics-revisited-time-on-page-and-time-on-site/.

If you're after additional privacy; a new browser, preferably in private browser / incognito window is a better bet.

Hope that helps!

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Yes. Web analytics tools can track behavior across multiple tabs. The methods for doing this vary.

Apologies for the brevity of the first response. I had less time than I thought when I started typing the answer.

Here is some supporting information.

  1. Empirical Evidence for Cross-Tab Tracking
    Go to Amazon, Walmart, or any large ecommerce site. Add something to the cart. Open a new tab in your browser and go to the same site. You will see the cart contains the item you added previously. This is evidence that your visit is being tracked across separate browser tabs. There are nuances to this tracking based on the limits of cookies (e.g., the time between interactions with the site, authentication on the site, the source of the cookie). Read this page to understand the limitations of this method: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie

  2. Analytics Documention
    A version of Adobe's Test & Target documentation. One page (of many) explaining how Google Analytics works Tracking Code Overview

  3. Spooky Read this paper (pdf file). how unique is your browser These methods are being refined and implemented to get around the limits being placed on 3rd-party cookies.

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