No, your browser “Incognito Mode” can’t stop Facebook and Google track your porn habits!

Yes, that’s an uncomfortable topic!

A team of researchers (Elena Maris, Timothy Libert and Jennifer Henrichsen) from Microsoft, the University of Pennsylvania, and Carnegie Mellon have revealed a study showing that Google and Facebook are keeping tabs on user’s porn viewing habits with trackers and using incognito mode or private browsing does not stop it.

In the paper “Tracking sex: The implications of widespread sexual data leakage and tracking on porn websites” the researchers analyzed 22,484 porn websites and noted a whopping 93% of porn sites leak information to third parties through trackers, and the largest suppliers of these third party trackers are none other than Facebook and Google:

Our analysis of 22,484 pornography websites indicated that 93% leak user data to a third party. Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies, which we identify. We successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17% of the total. The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. Our content analysis of the sample’s domains indicated 44.97% of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user.
We identify three core implications of the quantitative results:
1) the unique/elevated risks of porn data leakage versus other types of data,
2) the particular risks/impact for vulnerable populations, and
3) the complications of providing consent for porn site users and the need for affirmative consent in these online sexual interactions.

https://arxiv.org/abs/1907.06520

How is the tracking done?

According to New York Times,

The authors used webXray, an open-source software tool, which detects and matches third-party data requests to scan sites. Most of that information (79 percent of websites that transmitted user data) was sent via tracking cookies from outside companies.

Web tracking varies around the web. Frequently users are tracked via cookies, which are bits of text downloaded by your web browser when you visit a site. Other times trackers come in the form of invisible embedded pixels on your screen. In most cases, these trackers help sites identify and classify repeat visitors. They can help you stay logged onto a site, record your preferences and help manage your advertising profiles.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/17/opinion/google-facebook-sex-websites.html

How stop Google and Facebook from tracking your “porn habits”?

It’s worth emphasizing that Incognito mode or Private Browsing mode is not a privacy solution. All it does is prevent a local copy of your internet history and form fills from being stored.
So, good privacy solutions could be tunnel your internet traffic into TOR or in a VPN.


References


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