Facebook and Google are tracking their users' porn searches, new study shows

Thursday - 18/07/2019 20:14
Facebook and Google are tracking their users' porn searches, new study shows
Big tech companies like Facebook and Google know exactly what type of porn their users are watching, new research shows.

In a study first pointed out by The New York Times, researchers found that porn sites were full of web trackers that analyzed people's viewing data, even when their browsers were in "incognito" mode. 

The analysis looked at data from more than 22,000 porn sites and found that 93 percent of those pages leaked at least some information to a third-party source. 

Google was found to have web trackers on 74 percent of those sites, while Facebook only had trackers on 10 percent. Oracle, which specializes in database technology and software, came in at 24 percent.

Google and Facebook both said data collected from porn sites was not used to create marketing profiles of its users. However, the study's authors still raised concerns about the nature of the content being shared. 

"The fact that the mechanism for adult site tracking is so similar to, say, online retail should be a huge red flag," Dr. Elena Maris, a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft and the study’s lead author, told the New York Times. "This isn’t picking out a sweater and seeing it follow you across the web. This is so much more specific and deeply personal."

The study was conducted by researchers at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania. using a tool called webXray. The analysis found that the majority of the data — 79 percent — was shared via cookies, which are text files that get downloaded by a user's computer when they visit a site.

Even though tech companies might not be getting advertising data from these sites, Dr. Maris still noted the invasive nature of tracking something as private as porn searches. 

"As in any sexual interaction, silence must not be mistaken for consent," Dr. Maris told the New York Times. "Individuals should have a clear understanding of the power dynamics of the sexual exchange they are entering when visiting porn sites."

Source:

 Keywords: Google, Facebook

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