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Do you watch porn in incognito mode? Google, Facebook could still be tracking you

FE Online

In what comes as another case of privacy violation, Google has been found to keep a tab on the websites visited even in the incognito mode. A joint study by Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pennsylvania claims that Google, Facebook, and Oracle cloud track the online activities, including the pornographic content streamed, of users even if they have entered incognito mode on PC or smartphone.

But this is not active surveillance by these companies on the incognito activities. Instead, 93 per cent of pornographic websites, as many as 22,484 that were investigated as a part of the study using a tool called 'webXray', have been found to be tracking pages and sending the data to third-party firms such as Google and Facebook among 230 companies, the study shows.

Moreover, researchers have also found that the tracking activities are concentrated by only a few big companies, including Amazon, Alphabet (parent company of Google), and even Twitter.

While browsing porn on the Internet, there are trackers on the page that read the activities to suggest advertisements and links to other similar websites. These trackers are both porn-specific and non-porn-centric. 74 per cent of the non-porn trackers belonged to Google, 24 per cent to Oracle, and 10 per cent to Facebook, the study has revealed.

On the other hand, companies such as exoClick, JuicyAds, and EroAdvertising were found to be owning 40 per cent, 11 per cent, and 9 per cent, respectively, of the porn-specific trackers, in the incognito mode.

The study also mapped the geolocation of these trackers, wherein it was discovered that most non-porn trackers in the top 10 belonged to most US companies while the porn-specific companies are based in Europe.

The researchers managed to obtain privacy policies of 3,856 websites, which constitutes 17 per cent of the study sample. According to the researchers, these privacy policies were written in a manner that needs the examiner to at least have a two-year college education to understand them, defying the concept of transparency. "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," the study notes.