back to article Incognito mode won't stop smut sites sharing your pervy preferences with Facebook, Google and, er, Oracle

Google, Facebook, and, surprisingly, Oracle are among the top ten third-party companies that frequently track your personal sexual interests every time you watch porn, according to new research. Switching to incognito mode in your browser might darken your screen and provide you with the perfect ambiance to surf the most …

  1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

    Oh fuck

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
      Trollface

      "We've been expecting you Mr Hartley"

      Google, Facebook, and Oracle

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "We've been expecting you Mr Hartley"

        ...and as your browser has identified you as being a straight-gay-lesbian tri-gender monk with dwarfism and incontinence who likes goats, we're a bit stumped as to what ads we should be showing you...

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Books on Fly Fishing?

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            But not those sort of flies!

          2. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

            Always with the bloody fly fishing book.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
              Coat

              Perhaps you shouldn't have written it then, or having written it you shouldn't have gone on telly to advertise it :P

          3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

            Or jam making kits.

          4. Benson's Cycle

            In the Yemen? Lots of goats there.

            1. The Nazz Silver badge

              Or alternatively :

              Yeah, man. Lots of goats there. Drool, drool.

        2. katrinab Silver badge
          Flame

          That's easy:

          Heterosexual dating sites

          Pregnancy related stuff

          Nursery schools

          Vetinary equipment for cows

          Blockchains

          Ambulance chasers

          1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

            Katrinab's list

            katrinab: That's easy:

            • Heterosexual dating sites

            • Pregnancy related stuff

            • Nursery schools

            • Vetinary equipment for cows

            • Blockchains

            • Ambulance chasers

            There is a good film based on this list, I'm just try to work out the sequence of events. If one follows from the other, I'm curious to see the jump between «Nursery Schools» and what follows.

            1. katrinab Silver badge

              Re: Katrinab's list

              Presumbably my [vomit] husband [vomit] decides to start a farm and expects me to look after the cows.

              It fails, so we "invest" in bitcoin scams [by scam I mean you don't actually receive any bitcoins in return for your money which is an entirely separate issue to the debate about whether or not bitcoin is itself a scam]

              Then the ambulance chaser scams us out of yet more money on the pretext of getting back the money we lost on imaginary bitcoins.

            2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Katrinab's list

              • Nursery schools

              • Vetinary equipment for cows

              • Blockchains

              • Ambulance chasers

              How about the kids were taken on a farm visit, and whilst there you had a great idea on powering your mining servers on cow farts, which went terribly wrong.

        3. The Nazz Silver badge

          No kidding!

  2. wolfetone Silver badge
    Gimp

    I did wonder why Facebook suddenly started to suggest that I buy my step mother something nice...

    1. Halfmad Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      That icon choice is on point for a change!

    2. CommanderGalaxian

      You do realise that Facebook spams you with (ir)relevant adverts after you've bought something? Are you saying that you and your step mum have done the deed?

  3. revenant Silver badge

    I don't visit porn sites so I'm safe from spying

    Ha ha, of course not.

    It seems that there is a thriving 'track the hell out of everybody' ecosystem with products and enthusiastic ad-related forums that push tracking that browsers just don't do anything about.

    Privacy in this context only means privacy in relation to someone else who has local access to your machine. Anyone who thinks it does anything much with respect to the pool of sharks that is today's web is, sadly, mis-informed.

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Blah.

    Seems you'll now have to use a throwaway virtual machine to do your pr0nz viewing in - and one in a virgin browser (one that's never connected to any cloud account at all)....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      throwaway virtual machine

      I do exactly that for internet banking etc. so not an outrageous idea at all really.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: throwaway virtual machine

        Internet banking, or internet wanking?

        1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: Internet banking, or internet wanking?

          um... yes.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      You'll still be leaking your ip address unless you're using a VPN and, as the article says, can you really trust your VPN not to do exactly the same thing?

      Of course, this kind of trading in "personally identifiable information" breaches GDPR but who's going to pursue it?

    3. Huw D Silver badge

      Beardy Branson's new software venture?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But who wants to browse virgins when it comes to pornography?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Browsing Virgins

        There is always someone, prob a paedo

  5. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    Meh, porn companies have always been in the vanguard of net technologies...

    ... Soon one or other will create a browser...

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Meh, porn companies have always been in the vanguard of net technologies...

      Meh, porn companies have always been in the vanguard of net technologies...

      ... Soon one or other will create a browser...

      Or a smartphone operating system.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paranoid much

    And what do you expect the END GAME of this is?

    Let's face it

    Unless you're world famous nobody cares what you do your data is just data. Not special and MEANING NOTHING

    cue MASSIVE OVERREACTION. oh no the data about an url you visited - you, some anon random in a world of billions of people - is in a massive database in a large company somewhere

    Spare me your psychologically ADDLED fears of what will happen. You know what will happen with all your data

    NOTHING

    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

      Re: Paranoid much

      ...Bombastic Bob, is that you?

      1. STOP_FORTH
        Facepalm

        Re: Paranoid much

        Further proof that you can't hide your identity from the Internet!

      2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        Re: Paranoid much

        Hey, that's my line!

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Paranoid much

      >Unless you're world famous nobody cares what you do your data is just data.

      Trouble is, once you become famous/infamous its a bit late to start worrying your browsing history...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: nobody cares what you do your data is just data.

      Until you annoy someone who does care, and can (mis)use it against you. The future need not be the same as now.

      Maybe you or someone you know suffers some significant wrong due to corporate or government incompetence, corruption, or malpractice, and so you start campaigning to fix things. Now that "just data" could be weaponised to attack or your credibility personally. But maybe it's not you, since you prefer to keep your head down and hope to stay invisible, but instead someone you know. Except they are too clean or too careful, or a bad choice from a PR perspective, so instead you become the target as "they" begin to apply indirect pressure.

      Hang on, I think my my tinfoil hat has just worn out. I'll have go and get a fresh one :-)

    4. Kane Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Paranoid much

      Hey, Hey, Hey! It's time to play The Game again! I will reduce the rantings to only the UPPER CASE LETTERS from big bad bob's post (we know it's you bob, no need to be shy!), and see if it makes something more intelligible!

      Letsa Go!

      END GAME.

      MEANING NOTHING.

      MASSIVE OVERREACTION.

      ADDLED.

      NOTHING.

      Well, wasn't that fun!

    5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Paranoid much

      Unless you're world famous nobody cares what you do your data is just data.

      Speaks one who fails to realise how much companies are prepared to pay for data on each and everyone of us and who will quite happily and openly talk about data as currency. The only thing they won't do is tell you how much your data is actually worth to them. You have to infer this from some of the deals they do such as Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp for $ 20 bn. At the time WhatsApp had about 400 mn users so that's around $ 50 per user as a rough guide.

    6. The Original Steve

      Re: Paranoid much

      Say that to the Ashleigh Maddison users

    7. timlibert

      Re: Paranoid much

      Hi, study co-author here quoted in the article. In some parts of the world you can still be killed for being gay, so the "END GAME" may actually be getting killed because you looked at the wrong kind of porn. Even short of that, the embarrassment caused by the Ashley Madison hack result in people killing themselves - it is likewise within the realm of reason that if porn habits were leaked (always a risk), the consequences could be grave.

      1. CountCadaver

        Re: Paranoid much

        i.e. UK.gov or Holyrood.gov decides that x type of porn is now illegal and the law applies retrospectively / that or if its found in your browsing history your a sick pervert........

        Already there have been multiple attempts to ban porn entirely in Scotland, generallty pushed by extremists such as SWAP, only failed last time after an intervention from Feminists Against Censorship....

        Anti sex / porn fanatics won't give up, they'll run their committee hearings over and over, court the media, call "witnesses" who support their view, get them to weep on camera about how distressed porn makes them and how these people appearing in it are unwittingly brainwashed and exploited, along with "it deems ALL women so MUST be stopped IMMEDIATELY" and try through attrition to get their own way.....

        Holyrood particularly is becoming a Fruitopia, catering to some of the most illiberal proposals I've ever heard......

        1. Benson's Cycle

          Re: Paranoid much

          By the Holy Rood, the name gives it away.

    8. Bill Gray

      Re: Paranoid much

      I can't honestly say that it's actually much of a problem in my own case. (Quite aside from my not being "famous", my interests are pretty vanilla... nothing involving catcher's mitts, aquatic waterfowl, or appliances requiring three-phase power. If people know I sometimes have enjoyed looking at attractive women who seem to have mislaid their clothing, I'm not fussed about it.)

      For me, the concern is that this tracking data can be used by anybody who has access to it for nefarious purposes. (US TLA to Russian/Chinese legislator, or vice versa : "We have the following data on your somewhat astonishing preferences; would you like to help us or have us leak all?" TLA to its own legislators: "Increase our funding and let us do what we want, or...")

      Circa 1990, I almost got a US security clearance (contract involved got cancelled). I recall the big concern was whether my colleagues and I could be blackmailed for anything. At the time, that would have required a lot of investigation by Soviets that was unlikely to occur. Now, though, I doubt such data is more than a few keystrokes away for government agencies.

      Note that I don't intend this as a slam against a particular government. Any TLA in any country would eagerly abuse this sort of data for use against other governments; to disarm unilaterally would be foolish.

      1. toejam13

        Re: Paranoid much

        On the flip side, the social morals crowd did a great job creating an environment where people could be blackmailed over things like sexual preference and gender identity. As being LGBT becomes more normalized, that threat is disappearing.

        1. timlibert

          Re: Paranoid much

          As Gibson said, "The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed". When it comes to LGBTQ rights, some parts of the world are decidedly not "normalized", but those parts of the world do have the web (and porn).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Paranoid much

          LGB isn't an issue but Trans is still heavily discriminated against. Newspapers running dogwhistle campaigns against trans activists. Gregor Murray hounded out of Dundee City Council after a relentless withhunt by DC Thomson paper "The Courier" and then censured by the standards committee for referring to an abusive and anti trans campaigner as a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) - a very apt term for said activist, yet the female led committee decided that TERF was an insult.

          SNP also chose to take the side of one of their Grandees Joan McAlpine after she issued anti trans comments and to compound it,she then invited a radical feminist, who is banned from twitter for anti trans bigotry to address the Scottish Parliament, under the heading of "protecting women".

          Its the 80s and 90s anti gay witchunts again, just this time targeted at the trans community.

          Shameful and newspapers are getting away with running hate campaigns without challenge

          I have friends who are trans and the bigotry they face daily is horrific and utterly shameful.

          1. Muscleguy Silver badge

            Re: Paranoid much

            Except TERF is used by TRA's as an insult and meant as such. It also a label meant to shame people.

            That you know oppressed Trans people doesn't mean it is okay to open ALL female only spaces to ANYONE who self declares. It isn't your friends, I hope, who are the problem but throwing decades of hard won safeguarding under the bus is not the route to justice and fairness for Trans people.

            The problem is the TRA's are not interested in dialogue and in finding middle compromise solutions. It is their way lock, stock and barrel or get called Transphobic, TERF and threatened with violence and have a lynch mob persuade twitter etc to ban you for pointing out biological facts. This has and continues to happen.

            I'm a Physiologist and Developmental Biologist and I do not subscribe to magical thinking. I also have a wife (separated), two daughters, three sisters and five nieces. So I get to care about safeguarding issues and I will give up biological reality over my dead body and I'm 6' and broad shouldered if any TRA's fancy using their lady bats on me. I presume you know about lady bats? and what they are for.

            And tell me what sort of person, Mermaids, want to give children drugs so their bodies do not go through puberty and stay pre-pubescent? Again your Trans friends might be the nicest people ever but Trans is being used as cover for paedophilia and rape and getting access to vulnerable women in what should be safe spaces. Most of them are agressive TRA's.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Paranoid much

              Get a life - Paedophilia and rape??? Shrillness and false allegations much?

              There are kids who have gender dysphoria as diagnosed by specialist doctors and this isn't something pushed by their parents, these kids go through hell on earth trying to be themselves and whats worse than feeling like your stuck in the wrong gender's body? Injections delay puberty nothing more, It means should this kid reach 16/18 and they are still deadset on feeling like they are in the wrong body then transition surgery is easier and it avoids the psychological trauma in the meantime (And these kids can and do commit suicide from being forced to go through puberty into what is to them the "wrong gender"

              Equally if they change their mind, they stop the medication and they go through puberty quite rapidly.

              And anti trans activists have NEVER threatened violence against any trans person? Never committed violence against any trans person? NEVER verbally abused any trans person? NEVER falsely accussed any trans person? NEVER incited a newspaper hate campaign? NEVER used the term "tranny" or any other anti trans pejorative? (answer they have and still do)

              FYI I have a seriously disabled wife so far more vulnerable than virtually any other woman and she is fully supportive of trans people and has never felt threatened by trans people, as opposed to other women who she has witnessed many times verbally abuse other women, assault other women and worse.......

              You bandy about your job title like it makes you an expert on gender dysphoria, it doesn't, just reminds me of a guy who was an adult volunteer with the cadets who thought he knew everything medical and liked to intimate he was virtually a Dr, why? because he worked for the blood transfusion service....

        3. Bill Gray

          Re: Paranoid much

          @toejam13 : "...As being LGBT becomes more normalized, that threat is disappearing."

          That very point was raised during my circa 1990 near-clearance event. The gent guiding us through the process said that the TLAs were rather happy that homosexuality was no longer quite such good blackmail material in the West. He didn't say it, but I assume the fact that it's still top-notch blackmail material in Russia, the Middle East, and China also makes (US) TLAs happy.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Paranoid much

        It depends. One of the most famous porn actresses of the 80s, Traci Lords, turned out to be 15 when she started in the biz. She's the main reasons for those big "custodian of records" messages. No, before you ask, she looked like just all the other ladies, these were AAA porn movies done by major porn studios. That is to say, refreshingly "romantic and normal" compared to the much nastier stuff and simulated abuse that is quick becoming the norm in some modern porn.

        2-3 years later, the news leaked that she had used fake IDs and all but her last film, done legally, got taken off-market. Much better screening got put in place, amidst the rumor that she hadn't been the only one.

        Flash forward to today. Her last film wasn't great, but Pornhub will show clips of some of her other movies. Which technically means the viewer is then watching underage porn. This could apply to other "vintage" movies, because the records had been so spotty until then. Combined with this ubiquitous knowledge about who's fapping to what and there could be some nasty surprises waiting if someone was really motivated to go after you and you happened to be a nostalgic lad with the same tastes as millions of others in your age cohort.

        Good job on the article and paper.

    9. Jove Bronze badge

      Re: Paranoid much

      Well blow me! Mark Zuckerberg reads The Register!

    10. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Paranoid much

      I am applying for a low level govt job*, through to the interviews in fact but it is still subject to fairly intensive vetting. All your recent addresses for eg. They didn't say anything about social media logins but you never know or maybe they don't need to know.

      *It's a glorified call centre that also does online, they need 100 bodies stat so I'm not taking my progress thus far too much to heart. I will go get a haircut though and decide which tie to wear. I've already decided the one with Tas the Tasmanian Tiger arms up and growling has already been nixed. But reserved for Dress Down Friday if I get hired.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Incognito mode isn't incognito

    Well duh. The only thing that incognito mode prevents is your wife finding out. Even Comcast still knows what you're doing. It's the equivalent of using a burner computer which you use once and throw away afterwards. Your ISP still knows it's you; the websites still know your IP; any service you log into still identify you.

    1. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

      Tinge of irony that you post this whilst AC :)

      1. STOP_FORTH
        Boffin

        Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

        The real irony is that a website like the Reg doesn't know (or at least, doesn't say) that incognito mode doesn't actually do very much at all.

        If you use IE, Firefox, Edge, Chrome, Safari or Opera, you might want to head over to www.nirsoft.net and download their browser history application.

        Only works on later versions of Opera (Chrome-based ones.)

        You need to fiddle around a bit to get Edge to work with this.

        Do come back and tell us what you find!

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

          >you might want to head over to www.nirsoft.net and download their browser history application.

          BrowsingHistoryView and ChromeHistoryView do give some interesting results.

          What is also interesting is that it seems Chrome doesn't actually attempt to 'clean' the history cache until it starts up.

        2. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

          El Reg has already run several articles detailing the shortcomings of Incognito/Private mode. This is just an addition to the list.

      2. Anonymousse Coward

        Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

        The funny thing is that you think that posting as a user name is somehow different than posting as AC. Back in the good ole days of the internet we all used screen names that allowed us some semblance of hiding our real identities. Along comes Facebook and now everyone realizes that hiding your identity is pointless for 99.9% of the world because no one else knows who you are and/or doesn't care anyway.

        There are always going to be cases of people using information against other people in ways that are not the nicest but it still doesn't matter. As society transforms and our population continues to grow the idea of needing to remain anonymous has less value because there actually almost no way to remain anonymous beyond the fact that we're all anonymous because we no longer care who anyone else is.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

          I always understood that incognito mode was to save the hassle of deleting history and nothing more.

        2. JLV Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

          Don't be stupid.

          Some things can come back to bite you at any time. Things that can be objectionable to some, things that you said in the heat of the moment, ill-considered postings. Best keep them at arms length.

          Keeping your activities moderately private, by either AC or other means, bring in 2 benefits:

          - Plausible deniability, which largely assumes that people won't care much if it's not clearly you.

          - An unpleasant exposure to the person making the claim. I am not sure which politician in the 90s tried to leak a list of his opponent's unsavory VHS rentals, but it ended up as a shitstorm on their head instead. How did they access that data?

          But, yeah, if you're a FB or Instagram user who can't stop blabbing about the sandwich you had for lunch, I get that none of this makes any sense to you. Nor does it make it sense if you buy into FB's self-appointed quest to graph everyone to everyone and everything else.

          1. JohnSheeran

            Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

            I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm not saying you're right. I'm saying that it doesn't really matter. It only matters if you are in the public eye or are somehow impacted by public opinion. Even then, I'm not sure it matters as much as you think. Case in point; Donald Trump. He was recorded making statements on numerous occasions that would have ended most everyone else's political career yet he plowed forward and didn't acknowledge the statements and it hasn't held him back. While I think it's all a bad precedent and I don't like where this is all heading I also recognize that it just doesn't seem to matter either way.

        3. JohnSheeran

          Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

          It's almost like the name just doesn't matter.

    2. timlibert

      Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

      Hi, study co-author here quoted in the article. One thing to keep in mind is the average El Reg reader knows vastly more about computers, the Internet, and tracking than normal people. There is ample research that shows average people have near zero understanding of how this stuff works and in many cases think common forms of traffic monitoring and price discrimination are illegal (when they are fully legal in the US, less so in the EU).

      1. Nolveys Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

        One thing to keep in mind is the average El Reg reader knows vastly more about computers, the Internet, and tracking than normal people.

        How do we compare to abnormal people?

        1. timlibert
          Trollface

          Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

          Based on my knowledge of the El Reg readership I believe there is a 1:1 mapping.

          1. Mike007
            Joke

            Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

            Are you calling me "normal"?

            I am offended!

            Oh, nevermind, now I see the resemblance.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Coat

            Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

            No, it's 1:many. There are a lot or abnormal people, but only a few of us are Reg readers.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Incognito mode isn't incognito

              Oh, sorry, I thought you said 'one too many' ->

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Just out of curiosity

    If you block 3rd-party cookies in your safety settings, and use NoScript and an ad blocker, are you safer from tracking ?

    Asking for a friend, of course.

    1. seven of five

      Re: Just out of curiosity

      It certainly would not harm. More so if you are not out on a trawl for a quick flick of the wrist...

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Just out of curiosity

      >If you block 3rd-party cookies in your safety settings, and use NoScript and an ad blocker, are you safer from tracking ?

      Only if you also enable their usage in incognito mode as this seems not to be the default setting.

      (I tend to use incognito mode as a quick way to get around those sites that detect ad blocking - I allow ad's but what you see and what remains after I close the session will be limited.)

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Just out of curiosity

      You're safer but never entirely safe. Particularly the carriers and the CDNs are getting fairly detailed information whatever you do.

      1. toejam13

        Re: Just out of curiosity

        Agreed. There are several research papers regarding user-tracking using methods other than cookies, and from what I recall, between your IP address (IPv6 being worse than IPv4) and your browser fingerprint, you can be tracked sans-cookies with a fairly high degree of certainty.

    4. Spangle

      Re: Just out of curiosity

      Assuming youre using your phone - orbot and orfox are handy. I use orfox to browse with noscript. Video doesnt stream well over tor though so if im going to watch youtube i put my other browser through the vpn option of orbot.

      As far as i know... this means theres a file somewhere about a guy in iceland that youtube knows about.

      My isp has nothing but a tor node

      And unless i am of interest to the government... i dont think anyone can collect info on me outside phone version os etc etc.

      If theres a flaw in my plan - please advise.

      1. Spangle

        Re: Just out of curiosity

        Well other than tor being a product of the US government and the fact its probably wide open to them

        1. timlibert

          Re: Just out of curiosity

          The structural incentives of computer science research place a high premium on papers proving weaknesses in Tor, and for a lot of people there is significant professional prestige to be gained from breaking it. While I don't always agree with the way academic incentives are structured, in this case it offers some degree of confidence that very smart people would very much like to find and publish a flaw and do so as quickly as possible to scoop other researchers.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Re: Just out of curiosity

      If I saw that question in another forum, I might just post a serious reply.

      Here, and from you, I can smell trolling. I know you know the answers a well as the rest of us.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just out of curiosity

      If you block 3rd-party cookies in your safety settings, and use NoScript and an ad blocker, are you safer from tracking ?

      Asking for a friend, of course.

      Only if you use your friend's IP address. Irrespective of what you do, the moment you pull data from a website you'll end up with an entry in access.log because that's simply how things work (well, Apache, no idea about MS stuff, that may just send it straight to Microsoft to boot). If you don't have it locked down, it wll also flag your presence via images that the website loads from 3rd parties - even the FONT may be enough if they use Google fonts (that's cached, but it still gives them an initial hit, plus changing parameters at Google's end may limit that cache timing).

      So, best use someone else's IP address. PS: if you use a VPN, you merely give the VPN provider access to your surfing habits.

      Of course, the best approach would be to use the Tor network, but that is (a) usually a bit short on usable bandwidth and (b) quite often blocked by sites (not just the dodgy ones) because the majority of traffic from those nodes are hacking attempts.

  9. Starace Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Hmm

    'Larry, Zack and Sergey are watching you fap'

    Like we expected any different.

    1. iron Silver badge
      Gimp

      Re: Hmm

      Data fetishists the lot of them.

  10. andy 103
    Facepalm

    Well, yes

    It even says this in the "how private browsing" thing works for Chrome

    https://support.google.com/chrome/answer/7440301

    When you browse privately, other people who use the device won't see your activity.

    Chrome doesn't save your browsing history or information entered in forms. Cookies and site data are remembered while you're browsing, but deleted when you exit Incognito mode.

    Your activity might still be visible

    ...

    Your activity might still be visible to:

    Websites you visit, including the ads and resources used on those sites

    So, it won't save cookies permanently whist using Incognito. But it will quite happily read the ones that were set when you weren't.

    Solution: use Incognito for everything, from day 1. Close and re-launch the browser after your, ahem, "sessions".

    1. Scroticus Canis
      Big Brother

      Re: Close and re-launch the browser BEFORE and after your, ahem, "sessions".

      FTFY - assuming your browser is set to clear cookies, etc... on close.

      Never heard onanism called 'ahem' before :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like vegetable porn, no not that sort you perverts but watching a bee pollinate a flower, phoarrr.

    I only ever seem to get adverts for honey.

    1. Steve K Silver badge
      Coat

      Web Honey-pot?

      Maybe it's a web honey-pot and they now have your details?

  12. Dr. G. Freeman

    Between this and the IoT nappy thing yesterday, is there anything left that they don't monitor ?

  13. hellwig Silver badge

    VPN and DNS over HTTPS

    Problem solved, right?

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: VPN and DNS over HTTPS

      Just make sure it's (A) not a free VPN - they have to make their money somehow, so guess how they do it? (B) One that is very clear and open about its privacy intent, what data it stores, and that it implements PFS, and (C) not one of these browser based VPNs such as Opera - which isn't actually a VPN at all - but a web proxy.

      I'm so sales shill, but I use AirVPN. I did my research well.

    2. Mike007

      Re: VPN and DNS over HTTPS

      I am still waiting for the Cloudflare VPN over HTTPS secure browsing service to launch.

      There might still be data I am not giving to them.

      1. timlibert

        Re: VPN and DNS over HTTPS

        Cloudflare has a fairly extensive product portfolio... https://blog.cloudflare.com/firebolt/

  14. Mr Sceptical
    Alert

    22,484 !!

    HOW MANY???

    Just how many variations of the word porn, pr0n, tubes, domesticated mammals, insertable objects are there? Far more than I imagined it seems. Must cater for every fetish under the sun (or in a dungeon)...

    I'm genuinely curious how they identified this many sites - do you Google for 'porn' and check every single search result? I can only think of a few famous ones.

    And just how long did the 'research' take? "Sorry, can't come in today, I've got RSI again..."

    1. timlibert

      Re: 22,484 !!

      Hi, I'm the co-author of the paper quoted in the article. In regards to your question we downloaded the top one million Alexa sites, then extracted any sites that had "porn" in the title, url, or meta description. It turns out it is a totally unique sub-string which is very helpful for matching. The tracking analysis was done by an automated system, webXray.

      1. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: 22,484 !!

        Resisting down voting for the use of "totally unique".

        Unique means the only one.

        Qualifying it with "totally" suggests that a few identical items can be classed as unique.

        Yeah, I know, language drifts.....

    2. Shooter

      Re: 22,484 !!

      Damn - that's 4317 more sites than I have bookmarked! How did I miss that many?

  15. Harry Stottle

    Don't forget "Canvas Fingerprinting"

    Even if you trust your VPN provider (I do. I use and recommend the - open source but paid - PIA ) that only protects you from IP tracking. The growing threat is the use of Canvas fingerprinting for which you need to install tools like "CanvasFingerprintBlock" for Chrome (and derivatives) or the equivalents for Firefox, Opera etc.

    And I strongly recommend (for ALL browsing, whether or not onanistically motivated) the use of Sandboxie (or an equivalent), set for automatic deletion on exit, so that anything the bastards drop onto your system is automatically wiped at the end of each browser session. This combination enables you to permit all the cookies they can eat without rendering any part of your system or browsing patterns subsequently trackable.

    Oh, and timlibert: did your survey perchance check how many of the sites were using Canvas Fingerprinting?

    1. timlibert

      Re: Don't forget "Canvas Fingerprinting"

      Most of my research is focused on attribution of the tracking (eg figuring out what companies are getting the data, where they are based, their policies, etc) than how the tracking is happening. With sufficiently large pool of IP addresses, timestamps, and basic UA data there is a lot of tracking to be done with fairly high reliability that doesn't need any client-side magic (See Yen et al, 2012, Host fingerprinting and tracking on the web: Privacy and security implications). While I'm not a gambling man, I'd be fairly comfortable placing a wager that the machine learning PhDs working in adtech can do quite a bit on HTTP logs.

      In my opinion VPNs shouldn't be trusted unless you roll it yourself, mainly because if you do roll it yourself you'll at least be sufficiently aware of the limitations to be smart about it.

  16. jason 7 Silver badge

    What is the end result?

    I guess Google has been tracking me and my browsing habits shopping, politics, porn or otherwise for nigh on 20 years.

    I'm still waiting for then to try to sell me something based on all that info. Not heard a peep.

    1. Mike007

      Re: What is the end result?

      Your data suggested that it was better to keep you quiet and give you nothing to complain about than try and sell to you. Hence, showing you ads that your personal data suggests are not relevant in order to throw you off the scent.

  17. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    team of researchers

    A team of researchers at Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and the University of Pennsylvania in the US analysed 22,484 pornography websites...

    And I'm sure they had to make sure those sites were well and thoroughly studied... All for science, of course.

    And they probably passed on the more "scientifically curious" ones on to their colleagues to make extra studies on.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but where...

    All that modeling of surfing and search habits, yet I I still don't get my target ads for crossover/cross-universe yuri/lesbian anime and vocaloid hentai. Someone is slacking off on the job. Or is it whacking off?

  19. The Dogs Meevonks

    I'd be interested in how these same sites fare when up against the following

    Firefox container in use

    No script

    Ublock

    Privacy Badger

    Ghostery

    + a decent VPN

    1. CommanderGalaxian
      Boffin

      There's a good chance they won't be able to track you. It's also odds on that you'll be looking at a blank browser with no porno content to bring about a happy ending to your day. And therein lies your conundrum.

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        hedging your bets

        I get all my pr0nz from the traditional location of under hedges (thankfully more plentiful in the semi-rural area that I live in nowadays). I'm not worried about trackiers but i have a strict policy of rejecting any cookies that I come across

  20. Winkypop Silver badge
    Trollface

    But

    I only read the articles

  21. Del_Varner

    Use either Firefox & Ghostery or TOR browser

    It is easy enough to stop or at least reduce being tracked online

  22. The Nazz Silver badge

    Dear websites, Researchers ....

    Asking for a friend, natch, but could you please include "NO TATTOOS" as an option, in fact as a default filter? Thanks.

    As you will know i, i mean my friend, is partial to that era where the rather fetching french ladies actually look decent with their clothes on. Within the "Golden Age" of porn, circa 1977-1984 (give or take a bit) my friend reckons you'd be (un)lucky to see more than a handful (ooooh errr missus) of tattoos. Suntans, tan lines galore. FTW.

    1. jason 7 Silver badge

      Re: Dear websites, Researchers ....

      Love a bit of Brigitte L eh? Don't blame you.

  23. Boohoo4u

    Don’t care

    Someone needs to write an app that while I’m sleeping will play (search for) random midget porn videos.

    I’d like to see the profile/model they come up with, dude watches 6 hours of midget porn every night... that would be hilarious. Maybe add 1 hour of sex toy research and dungeon accessories... LOL

    I wonder if a future employer would be impressed “never seen anyone with that much stamina and dedication”.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don’t care

      They might be able to conclude that you are starting a site of your own after automatically pirating material for it. Watch out for their lawyers...

  24. Jamesit

    TAILS (https://tails.boum.org/) is a good way to get around the tracking.

  25. Cincinnataroo

    I was tracking today how a browser goes on an involuntary site visit spree when I start it.

    Some of the sites seem quite inexplicable. (Presumably visited a few months ago).

    That could have an interesting impact.

  26. Bibbit
    Gimp

    That explains a lot

    No wonder I have been getting 20% off voucher codes from "World of Gimp".

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. Maty

    Outfits such as Google etc might know all your smutty details, but its hard to weaponize that stuff against individuals.

    Let's say for example you have absolute 100% certain evidence that random politician, let's call him BJ (appropriately) has been browsing highly inappropriate websites. If you publish this information, people are going to reasonably ask where you got it from. Somehow I can't see Google or his ISP coming forward and saying 'Well yes, it was us. We keep everyone's highly private information and we don't keep it secret.' Well, they could do it once - then the shitstorm from a very worried and guilty public is going to hit them hard.

    Furthermore BJ can go the Trump route, and just shrug it off as just another slur. He can reasonably point out that anyone with the means to verifiably discover that information also has the means to credibly fake it. In an age of deepfakes, a film showing him personally receiving the Order of Lenin from Putin for sabotaging the British economy can be dismissed as just a clever video manip.

    After all, everyone knows you can't trust stuff you find on the internet.

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