Online Porn – The Next Big Privacy Scandal


Online Porn – The Next Big Privacy Scandal

In light of the recent Adult Friend Finder hack and the very personal information that was leaked – recent articles by Brian Merchant & Brett Thomas – are even more relevant.

Your Porn Is Watching You by Brian Merchant

Thirty million Americans regularly watch porn online, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s a lot more than fess up to it, even in anonymous surveys: In 2013, just 12 percent of people asked copped to watching internet porn at all. But thanks to pervasive online tracking and browser fingerprinting, the brazen liars of America may not have a say in whether their porn habits stay secret. Porn watchers everywhere are being tracked, and if software engineer Brett Thomas is right, it would be easy to out them, along with an extensive list of every clip they’ve viewed.

Thomas, who lives in San Francisco, recently found himself at a bar, chatting with a member of the online adult-entertainment industry. They got to talking about economics, naturally. While the porn professional insisted that collecting and selling the personal data of users who visited erotic websites wasn’t part of the industry’s business model, Thomas wasn’t convinced.

“If you are watching porn online in 2015, even in incognito mode, you should expect that at some point your porn viewing history will be publicly released and attached to your name,” Thomas proclaimed in a blog post titled “Online Porn Could Be the Next Big Privacy Scandal,” shortly after.

Thomas’s case went something like this: Your browser (Chrome, Safari, whatever) has a very unique configuration, and it broadcasts all sorts of information that can be used to identify you as you click around the web. You’re basically leaving “footprints,” as Thomas calls them (others prefer “fingerprints”), all over the webpages you visit. Thus, it’s a matter of linking one footprint to another—an expert could spot the same prints on Facebook and NYTimes.com as on Pornhub and XVideos.

Thomas argued that “almost every traditional website that you visit saves enough data to link your user account to your browser fingerprint, either directly or via third parties.” He’s definitely right that most web pages you visit (certainly not just porn sites) have installed tracking elements that send your data to third-party corporations, probably without your knowledge. Many, for instance, run Google Analytics, which companies use to monitor traffic to the website. Others have social media “share” buttons and third-party ad networks built in.

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10 thoughts on “Online Porn – The Next Big Privacy Scandal

  1. Isnt it a breach of privacy since they do it without peoples knowledge or permission?. Still i suppose they are like the govt they do what the heck they like.

  2. Is this just about webites you type in or from legitimate websites with sleazy advertiser’s as well?
    Just saying there are a lot of places like Google that will send you to locations that you didn’t want to be at.

  3. Is watching porn a crime? I don’t think the average Joe needs care. Mind you in the UK the government are banning everything that’s mind altering so they’ll probably arrest you on that. ha ha, stupid tories.

  4. So every U.S. government worker in the criminal Obama regime will be identified and outed for their online p0rn viewing?

  5. Oh, the irony. The Irony! We’re racing, Formula One style, towards a world in which the only people to have any privacy will be the single-cell organisms that create the viruses, invade privacy, vacuum bank accounts, demand ransoms—and do (only) the types of “exposing” that suits THEM. When I said, however, “the only ones,” I merely mean they will be the last, since—irony upon irony—computers ARE computers. Thus, these people too will one day be called to account for what they do; and what they do is not merely questionable; it’s downright evil. And when I say, “called to account” I’m not just talking “exposure.” It’s only logical:

    HACKERS—of all types—TAKE NOTE:

    Do the math, which is so simple even you can do it. The longer the list of the lives you interfere with in such ways, all the greater is the chance that one and more of the people on it are the kinds of people you just don’t want to mess with—the kinds with huuuuuge resources, huge determination, huge reach, and above all, a huge capacity for holding grudges. Worse for you, these people are “organized”—if you get my meaning. What’s more they have brothers, and sons, and nephews, and “friends,” and… etc., etc. You think some of those names won’t be on your lists? As if it could not be worse for you, these people have centuries of practice at what they do. All you have to do is to touch THEIR web and not only you but (I strongly suspect) your own families too will rue the day you ever heard the word “hack.” Then there’s the CIA and MI6, the KGB, Mossad, and… Oh—God! It with its two thousand years of practice at discreetly disposing of worms like you: there’s the Vatican. Need I go on?

    Here’s how I see it going down. One name will slip—somewhere. And from it: two, or three; but probably more. It will be painful.

    Need I go on?

    All else aside, Thirty million porn watches in America (alone)? There won’t be a street, anywhere, that you can live on—no hole you can crawl into. Pornography? That’s nothin’.

    Inevitably, you guys are F***ed!

  6. I’m not worried if people know I watch porn or not, but the Tor browser should be immune to this sort of tracking.

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