Report: Google and Facebook Are Tracking Porn Viewing Habits

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

A new study scanned 22,484 pornography sites and found them filled with trackers from major tech firms, including Google and Facebook.

The New York Times reports that a new study by researchers from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania scanned 22,484 porn sites and discovered that they are riddled with tracking tools feeding data back to third party tech firms such as Facebook, Google, and Oracle.

“Our results indicate tracking is endemic on pornography websites: 93% of pages leak user data to a third-party,” the study concludes. The study scanned the sites in March of 2018 and found that 74 percent of trackers came from Google or its subsidiaries, 24 percent came from Oracle and 10 percent came from Facebook. The study claims that even enabling “incognito mode” on web browsers did not protect users from the trackers.

The rough translation of the percentage figures reveals that out of 22,484 websites, 16,638 sites had Google trackers, 5,396 had Oracle trackers, and 2,248 Facebook trackers. Researchers warned that this information leak should be extremely worrying for many users: “The fact that the mechanism for adult site tracking is so similar to, say, online retail should be a huge red flag.”

Elena Maris, a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft and the study’s lead author, stated: “These porn sites need to think more about the data that they hold and how it’s just as sensitive as something like health information. Protecting this data is crucial to the safety of its visitors. And what we’ve seen suggests that these websites and platforms might not have thought all of this through like they should have.”

A Google spokesperson told the Times: “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.”

Facebook echoed this statement adding that the firm’s community guidelines do not allow sex websites to use the company’s tracking tools for business purposes such as advertising. Facebook’s pixel tracker is, however, easily installable on any website but Facebook claims not track data collected from pornography websites. Read the full study here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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