Some URL shortening services allow users to see very basic information on who has clicked-through the link. If I remember right, it documents the visitor's web browser, computer's OS, exact date and time of click-through, on what site they clicked on the link or whether it was manually typed in, and sometimes a very rough approximation of geographic location. I realized while rewriting my resume and submitting graduate school applications that if I replaced all the links to my portfolio with a shortened URL, I would be able to see if and when my applications were being reviewed. Since I was applying to departments all over the country, I would very likely even be able to tell which department was viewing my materials.

I ultimately did not do this since I was of two minds whether it was ethical. On the one hand, I could see an argument for it being an advanced application strategy since one should assume websites are already tracking this info; on the other, I could see a department seeing this as unwarranted snooping and a breach of privacy adjacent to hacking. What's more, I know that if I was better at web development, I could set up my portfolio site to track most of this information automatically. Is this ethical? Is it enough of a grey zone that I can still use it? Does it make a difference whether I am applying to a university or a private sector job? Does it make a difference which department I am applying to?

  • I wouldn't want to click on an unverified link with unclear redirection if I were on the committee; it might be a safety breach and you might be deselected right away. You also need to check the laws of your country (which you did not name). Also, what do you need this information for? Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 21:33
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    When I review grad program applications, the only thing I look at is what the applicant has uploaded to my university's website. There's no issue of "clicking through"... which I'd be uneasy about, in any case. Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 22:14
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    Why do you care? You’ve already turned in your materials, so what are you going to do about what you learn? Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 22:46
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    About setting a portfolio site to track: if your readers are in the EU, you probably are obliged by the GDPR to put a tracking notice and obtain explicit consent, so along with ethics it is also potentially a legal question.
    – GoodDeeds
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 22:55
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    There is nothing particular to academia about this. Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 23:40

1 Answer 1


Ethically, this falls into a grey zone: In a normal situation, it would be an invasion into the readers' privacy; but one can argue that there are no privacy questions here because it is a purely professional situation (no one would be reading your application in their private time).

However, two other aspects of this are etiquette and implicature.

In terms of etiquette, I think what you are doing is considered gauche and sets you apart negatively, as it looks like you are snooping into a process that should be happening outside of your watch.

In terms of implicature, the message you are sending is that you are either impatient or mistrustful or, worse, controlling. Neither is a good look.

Practically, it is well possible that people will notice. Redirects are rarely instantaneous, and a viewer can always check what a redirection service makes public.

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