While cookie laws are hitting the UK and US, scientists have found that naughty websites are directly leaking our private information to third party trackers.
Of the 120 “popular websites” studied by scientists at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US, three-quarters were found to have leaked our information including email addresses, our home addresses and the IP address of our PCs.
Computer Science people at the institute said that despite law agencies trying to stop cookies and companies capturing our information, the “problem of privacy has worsened significantly.”
He said that the scientist’s findings were “increasingly worrisome” and insisted that it was time the government looked at how “first-party sites” to protected the privacy of their users.
This is because third-party sites had a strong economic incentive to continue to collect and aggregate user information, meaning they wouldn’t give up doing this without a fight.
The scientists found that just over half of sites leaked private information, while this number rose to 75 percent if site user IDs were included.
Hypochondriacs surfing health sites, and travel bods were also more at risk with the study finding that search strings sent to healthcare websites and travel itineraries on flight reservation sites were leaked the most.
This was a contradiction to previous thoughts that the bulk of information was leaked from popular social networking sites .
The boffins came to their new conclusions by focusing on sites that encourage users to register, since users often share personal and personally identifiable information, including their names, physical address, and email address, during the registration process.
They found that information is leaked through a number of routes to third-party sites that track users’ browsing behaviour for advertisers. In some cases, information was passed deliberately to the third-party sites. In others it was included, either deliberately or inadvertently, as part of routine information exchanges with these sites. Depending on the site, the leakage occurred as users were creating, viewing, editing, or logging into their accounts, or while navigating the websites.
And there was some advice for those of us concerned with our data, including blocking the setting of cookies and using an advertising blocking feature.