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<pre><pre>Google web trackers are everywhere on porn sites and the incognito mode won't save you

Visitors to porn sites have a & # 39; fundamentally misleading sense of privacy & # 39; warn the authors of a new study which investigates how tracking software from technical companies such as Google and Facebook is used on websites for adults.

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The study's authors analyzed 22,484 porn sites and discovered that 93 percent of them leaked data to third parties, including when accessed through the "incognito" mode of a browser. This data represents a "unique and increased risk," the authors warn, as 45 percent of the URLs of porn sites indicate the nature of the content and possibly disclose someone's sexual preferences.

"[E] Everyone is at risk if such data is accessible without the consent of the users and may therefore be used against them," write the authors. "These risks are increased for vulnerable populations whose use of pornography can be classified as non-normative or contrary to their public life." This can be, for example, countries where homosexuality is illegal, for example, or cases where the sexuality of a public figure is not public knowledge.

But although it is clear that people are being followed when they visit porn sites, it is less certain what happens to this data and in which cases it can be linked to someone's identity.

For example, trackers made by Google and its subsidiaries appeared on 74 percent of the porn sites that the researchers investigated. But the company denies that the software collects information that is used to create ad profiles.

"We do not allow Google ads on websites with adult content and we prohibit personalized advertising and advertising profiles based on a user's sexual interests or related activities online," said a Google spokeswoman. told The New York Times, which is the first to cover the results of the investigation. "In addition, tags for our advertising services may never send personally identifiable information."

Facebook, whose trackers appeared on 10 percent of the sites the researchers looked at, made a similar denial of the NYT, although the code that is released to track users can be embedded in any site without the permission of Facebook. Another American tech giant Oracle, whose trackers appeared on 24 percent of the sites studied, did not comment on the study.

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Posting these findings is difficult because trackers on the web are endemic and have many banal applications. Some cookies are used to remember your login information when you visit a site, while others use cookies to send web traffic data back to companies. A large number is dedicated to coordinating online advertising, allowing companies to display ads on multiple sites.

The type of data collected by trackers also varies. Sometimes this information seems anonymous, such as the type of web browser you use, or your operating system or screen resolution. But this data can be correlated to create a unique profile for a person, a process known as & # 39; fingerprints & # 39 ;. Other times, the information that is collected is more clearly visible, such as the IP address of a user or the mobile identification number of the phone.

"The fact that the adult site tracking mechanism is similar to online retail should be a huge red flag," said Elena Maris, lead author of the study and a researcher at Microsoft, The New York Times. "This is not choosing a sweater and following you on the internet. This is so much more specific and personal."

The study, which will be published in the journal New media and society, also discovered that without practical use of specialized software it is practically impossible for users to know when a porn site is following them. Privacy policy that could disclose such information was only available for 17 percent of 22,484 scanned sites and the authors note that when such policies to be offered, they are usually so specialized that they are illegible for most users.

Even if tracking companies themselves do not link users' pornographic behavior to personalized advertisements, there is a clear risk that such data can be hacked by outsiders. A number of adult sites such as YouPorn have been in recent years attacked, with hackers who retrieve emails, passwords, usernames and credit card details.

The authors of the study conclude that the "overwhelming leak" of pornography data requires urgent attention. They suggest that government regulation can enforce new privacy standards and that users should be made aware of the information that they may disclose.