There are not many things for which Mark Zuckerberg is owed an apology. But still, I feel compelled to say sorry for the things Facebook has learned about me.
That’s because porn sites are chock-full of third-party tracking tools — Facebook and Google are intimately aware of the porn we’re all watching, according to research shared on the preprint server ArXiv that will soon be published in the journal New Media & Society. It’s a jarring sign that even our most personal online activity is closely tracked and monitored, and there’s little we can do about it.
Security researchers took a very close look at 22,484 porn sites and found that almost all of them sent user information to third party organizations.
Almost all the data was sent via cookies from third-party companies, according to The New York Times. The researchers found that only 7 percent of the sites they studied didn’t send out user info. Those that did, however, shared the information with seven different companies, on average. Only 17 out of the 22,484 websites had any sort of encryption in place.
“The fact that the mechanism for adult site tracking is so similar to, say, online retail should be a huge red flag,” lead researcher Elena Maris told the NYT. “This isn’t picking out a sweater and seeing it follow you across the web. This is so much more specific and deeply personal.”
READ MORE: Google and Facebook Are Quietly Tracking You on Sex Websites [The New York Times]
More on internet privacy: The Inventor of the Web Says It’s Broken and Net Neutrality Can Fix It