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Google, Facebook Secretly Tracking Your Porn-viewing Habits

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers

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The Google name is displayed outside the company's office in London, Britain. VOA

If you think watching pornographic material in the “incognito” mode will not let anyone know, you are mistaken. Google, Facebook and even Oracle cloud are secretly tracking the porn you watch even when you switch on the “incognito” mode on your laptop or smartphone.

A new joint study from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pennsylvania that investigated 22,484 sex websites using a tool called “webXray” revealed that 93 per cent of pages track and leak users’ data to third-party organisations.

“Tracking on these sites is highly concentrated by a handful of major companies,” said the researchers who identified 230 different companies and services tracking users in their sample.

Of non-pornography-specific services, Google tracks 74 per cent of sites, Oracle 24 per cent and Facebook 10 per cent.

Porn-specific trackers in the top 10 are exoClick (40 per cent), JuicyAds (11 per cent), and EroAdvertising (9 per cent).

“The majority of non-pornography companies in the top 10 are based in the US, while the majority of pornography-specific companies are based in Europe,” said the study.

The researchers – Elena Maris, Microsoft Research; Timothy Libert, Carnegie Mellon University; and Jennifer Henrichsen, University of Pennsylvania – said they successfully extracted privacy policies for 3,856 sites, 17 per cent of the total.

“The policies were written such that one might need a two-year college education to understand them. The content analysis indicated 44.97 per cent of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” said the study to be published in the journal New Media & Society.

The team created a hypothetical profile named “Jack” who decides to view porn on his laptop.

Corporate, America, Climate Change
FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Jack enables “incognito” mode in his browser, assuming his actions are now private. He pulls up a site and scrolls past a small link to a privacy policy. Assuming a site with a privacy policy will protect his personal information, Jack clicks on a video.

“What Jack does not know is that incognito mode only ensures his browsing history is not stored on his computer. The sites he visits, as well as any third-party trackers, may observe and record his online actions,” the researchers noted.

These third-parties may even infer Jack’s sexual interests from the URLs of the sites he accesses. They might also use what they have decided about these interests for marketing or building a consumer profile. They may even sell the data.

Jack has no idea these third-party data transfers are occurring as he browses videos.

“His assumption that porn websites will protect his information, along with the reassurance of the ‘incognito’ mode icon on his screen, provide Jack a fundamentally misleading sense of privacy as he consumes porn online,” wrote the researchers.

The above hypothetical scenario occurs frequently in reality and is indicative of the widespread data leakage and tracking that can occur on porn sites, they added.

Also Read: Instagram to Now Alert Violators Before Deleting Accounts

In 2017, Pornhub, one of the largest porn websites, received 28.5 billion visits, with users performing 50,000 searches per second on the site.

Statistics vary as to the amount of overall porn activity on the internet, but a 2017 report indicated porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined, and that “30 per cent of all the data transferred across the Internet is porn”, with site YouPorn using six times more bandwidth than Hulu.

“While the findings of this study are far from encouraging, we do believe regulatory intervention may have positive outcomes,” said the researchers. (IANS)

Next Story

120 New Games to be Added to Google Stadia in Year 2020

Google has also confirmed four games for 2020 they are Doom Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077, Gods and Monsters, and Watch Dogs: Legion, while none of them have confirmed release dates for Stadia

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Google
Google Stadia is right now available in 14 countries -- Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US -- with a monthly subscription of Stadia Pro costing $9.99 (Rs 690 approx) in the US. Wikimedia Commons

US based search engine giant Google has revealed that it will add more than 120 games to its its subscription-based game service ‘Stadia’ this year.

More than 10 games in the first half of this year alone that will only be available on Stadia when they launch.

“Looking at our upcoming lineup, we are tracking more than 120 games coming to Stadia in 2020, and are targeting more than ten games in the first half of this year alone that will be only available on Stadia when they launch. We are working with our partners to share more on those games soon,” the company said in a statement recently.

In the next three months, Google plans to release support for 4K web gaming, improved assistant functionality for web gaming, additional Android phone support and wireless web gameplay via the Stadia controller.

Google Stadia
By opening the newly launched Google Stadia app from the Play Store, user would see a screen promoting Destiny 2, which is expected to be one of the first games that will be offered to Stadia user. Pixabay

“Gamers can expect more features coming to Stadia in Q1 and beyond. A key benefit of our platform is that we can add these features without any updates or downloads, and we are starting to roll out the following over the next three months: support for 4k gaming on the Web, add further Assistant functionality when playing on the Web, support additional Android phones, wireless gameplay on the Web through the Stadia controller,” the company added.

The company recently released the last batch of games it promised for 2019, including Borderlands 3 and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 while Ghost Recon Breakpoint is coming soon.

Also Read: US Judge Orders Facebook to Disclose Malicious Apps’ Data: Report

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, the first game to offer Google’s promised Stream Connect feature that lets players see their teammates’ screens so they can coordinate.

Google has also confirmed four games for 2020 they are Doom Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077, Gods and Monsters, and Watch Dogs: Legion, while none of them have confirmed release dates for Stadia. (IANS)