A new study shows that those who access porn sites, contrary to what they imagine, do not have a lot of privacy. That’s because a tracking system made by companies like Facebook and Google works on almost every adult site.
The authors looked at 22,484 sites and found that 93% of them leaked data to third parties, including when they were hidden in browsers. They warn of the unique and high risk of this action since 45% of the URLs of this type of site indicate the nature of their content, that is, they can potentially indicate the sexual preferences of those who access.
What is still uncertain is the path that these actions take when they are traced. Google and it’s subsidiary companies account for 74% of the crawls on adult sites, although the company denies the collection of information to create advertising profiles, claiming that it does not allow Google ads to adult content sites and prohibits personalized advertising based on interests of the visitor.
Facebook, responsible for another 10% of crawlers on porn sites, denied the use of the information, although it’s worth noting that the code released for crawling can be embedded in any site without the company’s permission. Oracle, whose crawlers appear on 24 percent of the sites, did not comment.
Everyone is at risk when such data is accessible without the consent of users and therefore can be leveraged against them. These risks increase for vulnerable populations whose pornographic use may be classified as non-normative or contrary to their public life. “This may include countries where homosexuality is illegal, for example, or cases where the sexuality of a public figure is not of public knowledge “.
Elena Maris, lead author of the study and researcher at Microsoft
The type of data collected by the crawlers varies. Sometimes this information looks anonymous, such as the type of Web browser used, the operating system, or the screen resolution of the device. But this data can be correlated to create a profile unique to an individual, a process known as fingerprint, or fingerprint. Other times, the information collected is more revealing, such as the IP address of a user or the IP number of the smartphone used.
The study also shows that without the use of specialized software, it is virtually impossible to know if a porn site is tracking the user. Privacy policies are only available on 17 of the more than 22,000 verified sites, and most are unreadable to most users.