Watching porn in Incognito mode? Google, and others still tracking you

Major companies like Google and Facebook are tracking pornographic habit of a, even in ‘incognito mode’, a joint study from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and the University of Pennsylvania has revealed. Out of 22,484 pornography websites that the researchers analyzed, 93% leak data to third-party apps, the study points out.

Thanks to difficult privacy policies that often miss out the third-party tracking clause, the data sent to companies by trackers without the consent of users can be used to determine personal habits, sexual preferences of users. The study finds that 44.97%  sites “expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user”, which seems concerning.

Our results indicate tracking is endemic on pornography websites: 93% of pages leak user data to a third-party ,the pages that leak data do so to an average of seven domains; 79 % have a third-party cookie (often used for tracking); of the pages with cookies, there is an average of nine cookies, and only 17% of sites are encrypted, allowing network adversaries to potentially intercept login and password details,” the study reads.

It also put out a list of top ten third-parties identified to track users, out of which exoClick, JuicyAds, and EroAdvertising were pornography-specific. Google and Facebook, which track 74% and 10% of sites respectively were among the non-pornography-specific services in the list.
Non-pornography-specific service such as Google does not host porn on its services, but “has no limits  observing the porn consumption of users, often without their knowledge”, according to the study. Oracle is said to track 24 per cent sites.

The researchers – Elena Maris from Microsoft Research, Timothy Libert from CMU, and Jennifer Henrichsen from the University of Pennsylvania – used the webXray software platform to identify the companies that are collecting user data. In addition, policyXray was used to analyze different aspects of privacy policies on websites such as the time needed to read the policy, reading difficulty as well as whether third-parties collecting data is mentioned in the policy.

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