Google, Facebook And Almost All Other Sites Are Leaking Your Info!
November 27, 2015
It is no secret that most websites track our activities with or without our consent and those who do tell us that they are keeping records of our activity online, also claim they are doing this for research purposes so that they can provide a better service and user experience. What they don’t tell us is that almost all of these sites eventually end up sharing this information with third parties.
In fact, a peer reviewed research by Tim Libert from University of Pennsylvania shows conclusively that 9 out of 10 websites leak the recorded data to third party companies without any consent of the users!
To conduct research, Libert used own open source software- webXray, to analyze website trackers. He had previously used this same tool to look at trackers on health and porn websites as well. In his paper, Libert wrote:
“Sites that leak user data contact an average of nine external domains, indicating that users may be tracked by multiple entities in tandem.In an interview with Motherboard, he also made this alarming statement: “If you visit any of the top one million sites there is a 90 percent chance largely hidden parties will get information about your browsing.” He further added, “Most troubling is that if you use your browser setting to say ‘Do Not Track’ me, the explicitly stated policy of nearly all the companies is to flat-out ignore you.”
“The worst perpetrator is Google, which tracks people on nearly 80 percent of sites, and does not respect DNT [Do Not Track] signals.”
He also had this to say about Google: “The worst perpetrator is Google, which tracks people on nearly 80 percent of sites, and does not respect DNT [Do Not Track] signals.”
While Google did not officially respond to this, upon reviewing its User policy, we did find that the firm has numerous safeguards in place to prevent privacy breach, including privacy controls, data sharing settings as well as an opt put browser add on for Chrome. However, it remains to be seen exactly to what extent Google adheres to its own policy of not sending out user information to thirds party operators.
Facebook on the other hand, is clear about its policies. The social media giant clearly states: “Technologies like cookies, pixel tags (“pixels”), device or other identifiers and local storage (collectively, “Cookies and similar technologies”) are used to deliver, secure, and understand products, services, and ads, on and off the Facebook Services.”
The alarming part is there really is no full proof way of preventing such leakage of our personal information. using VPNs or browser extensions can only patch one leak or two, but it cannot cap the info leakage completely. Using TOR browser could be a potential solution but it is a much slower browser compared to others and also comes with a lot of usability issues.
Maybe talented local developers can figure a way out!