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A clickstream is the recording of what a user clicks on while browsing on an internet website or when using certain types of software applications.  As the user is browsing on the webpage, all of their clicks anywhere on that webpage are then recorded on the client or inside of the Web server.   The logging of information can also be recorded onto the Web browser, router, proxy servers, and ad serves.   The main purpose of clickstreaming is to analyze data pertaining to activity on a certain website, software testing, market research, and even employee productivity.

                Clickstreaming may seem harmless from a broad perspective, but it had also raised several ethical issues.   Some companies have resorted to selling user’s data to other companies as a way to enhance the company’s revenue, but this has raised an issue of privacy.  Although the data does not directly identify specific users, it does so indirectly and can be very costly when trying to recover.  A well known example of this would be the “AOL search data scandal.”  Here, over 650,000 users’ personal information such as social security numbers and addresses were exposed on the web indirectly.  As a result, AOL was required to pay $5,000 to every person whose information was exposed and the incident was listed at #57 on “101 Dumbest Moments in Business” by Business 2.0 Magazine.

                Within the last decade, e-commerce has grown to be more popular.  Because of the analyzing data of clients who visit websites a required in order to remain competitive.   Clickstream data has become very valuable to marketers and advertising companies.  This analysis does two things for the website.  The first is that it analyzes the user’s clickstream while using a website usage pattern.   In other words, it records and studies the type of people who visit the website, how they like using the website, or how likely are they going to use the website again.  Secondly, clickstreaming helps improve customer satisfaction with the website and with the business that is running it.  By successfully meeting these two goals, the business gains a huge advantage over its competitors.

                There are two levels of a clickstream analysis; traffic analysis and e-commerce analysis.  Traffic analysis operates at the server level by collecting clickstream data related to the path that the user takes when browsing through the website.  This analysis tracks how many pages are served to the user, how long it takes for pages to load, how often a user uses the “back” or “stop” button, how much data is transmitted before a user moves on, etc.  E-commerce analysis uses the clickstream data to determine the effectiveness of the website and as a channel-to-market by quantifying the user’s behavior when on a website.  The types of information tracked in this analysis could be what a user purchases, what they put in and take out of their shopping cart, or how long they linger on a webpage.

                 The way clickstreams are being monitored to build business intelligence are evolving due to the growing corporate knowledge of the importance of clickstreams.  Clickstreams are used in conjunction with data mining, column-oriented DBMS, and integrated OLAP systems to better record and analyze data.  With today’s fast-paced e-business community, it is essential that clickstreaming is used in order further improve user interface, satisfaction, while not jeopardizing people’s personal information.  Unauthorized clickstream data is regarded as spyware.  Fortunately, authorized clickstream information comes from organizations that use opt-in panels to generate market research that uses panelists who agree to share their clickstream data with other companies.