How private is your browser’s Private mode? Research into porn suggests “not very”


Thought using Incognito mode might keep such searching private? Facebook, Google, and even Oracle have more of your Web usage in their sights than you might think.

A forthcoming research paper [PDF] from researchers at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Pennsylvania brings up the possibility that Google and Facebook might be tracking your porn history—and, perhaps more worrisome, that using Incognito mode doesn’t help.

The paper, set to be published in the journal New Media & Society, does an excellent job of backing up the claim that porn usage ends up being tracked by Google and Facebook. Authors Elena Maris, Timothy Libert, and Jennifer Henrichsen used open source tool webxray to analyze more than 22,000 porn sites, discovering tracking code for Google on 74% and for Facebook on 10% of the sites analyzed. Software giant Oracle’s Web tracking code also showed up, appearing on 24% of those sites.

In light of the study, a Facebook spokesperson told CNET, “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.” Google told The New York Times that the company disallows ads on adult sites and directly prohibits adding information based on sexual interest or activities to any personalized advertising profiles.

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