So, your porn habits are being tracked, that’s a new thing today. Wait, are you opening secretly on ‘Incognito mode’, that’s also being tracked by none another than Facebook and Google themselves.  I’m not saying that it’s a recent joint study published by Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pennsylvania, who investigated 22,484 porn site using a tool called ‘WebXray’ reveal. The report suggests that 93% of pornographic pages track and share user’s data to a third-party organisation.

Here are some of the statics:

  • Google is tracking a whopping 74% of pornographic sites.
  • Oracle is tracking 24% of porn sites.
  • Facebook is tracking 10%.
  • exoClick is a porn specific tracker that track 40% of porn sites.
  • JuicyAds is at 11%.
  • EroAdvertising is at 9%.
  • Cloudflare is at 7%.

Should you be worried?

As long as you’re watching porn secretly, or perhaps you’re into that BDSM thing maybe Google will let you go, no they will not. So, Y-E-S, you should be worried. It’s not about porn habit anymore, it’s about your data privacy. Do you want Google, Facebook to know that you’re watching porn? What kind of porn? What porn stars do you search for? What channel you mostly visit? Are doing camming or not? What is your sexual preference? Are you that comfortable to let a corporation know of your sexual habit?  I don’t think anybody should be that comfortable at all.

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Photo Credit: Elena Maris, Timothy Libert, and Jennifer Henrichsen

How are they even tracking when I’m on Incognito mode?

Okay, it’s very simple. Incognito mode only clears the history and cache files in your computer, so if you’re opening a porn website it’ll not keep history. But tools like site analytics, third party advertisement tracker are constantly tracking Porn websites, and the reason is Porn website receives a lot of visitors. In 2017, Pornhub alone had 28.5 billion unique visitors with users performing 50,000 searchers per second. Do you remember that annoying camming pop-up, yup, that’s what I’m talking about?

Why are companies tracking?

Answer: Data is oil. Trust me, it is. An adequate amount of data can give you enough market analysis that you’ll convert some of your marketing strategies to gain profit. But most of the tracking website forbids adult content, like Facebook, Youtube.

“We don’t want adult websites using our business tools since that type of content is a violation of our Community Standards. When we learn that these types of sites or apps use our tools, we enforce against them,” Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said in an email Thursday.

If that is true, then what is Facebook doing in the website analytics business in the first place? And how come there is a 10% tracking record? Google, on the other hand, earns most of its revenue from its analytics tool.

“In the US, many advertising and video hosting platforms forbid ‘adult’ content. For example, Google’s YouTube is the largest video host in the world, but does not allow pornography,” the researchers wrote. “However, Google has no policies forbidding websites from using their code hosting (Google APIs) or audience measurement tools (Google Analytics). Thus, Google refuses to host porn, but has no limits on observing the porn consumption of users, often without their knowledge.”

Yes, Google is tracking. Try going to the location history setting of your Android smartphone. Google, knows your location, your purchasing habit, they even have the voice recording of ‘Ok Google’ command that you gave for fun sake and now they are in your bedroom, doing what they do best.

A spokesperson from Google said “We don’t 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. Additionally, tags for our ad services are never allowed to transmit personally identifiable information to Google.

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

Is this conversation even leading somewhere?

Few things I do not understand, if the corporation is clear that they are not using data from the pornographic site in any mean, then why are they allowing porn website to use their tools at first place? And if they know they have the data, then what do they do with it? Do they delete it or do they use it for their own benefit? Because even If there is a fraction of chance that users’ data of porn sites are compromised then it’s a very serious issue. Because it’s not just another information, it’s something very-very sensitive and personal.

So, I do think this conversation is not leading anywhere, perhaps one or two decades later when these so-called corporations will be so vested in our life that there will be a legit Black Mirror episode. Then a banal netizen will raise its concern about data privacy. Until then, this is just a debate that one will forget the next day.

If you have any suggestion or question please do drop them in the comment section below. That was my time.

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