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Incognito mode is not the answer, but this is



Your dumb privacy tricks aren’t working. They still know what kind of porn you’re watching. 

So concludes a not-so-surprising study, which determined that online pornography sites are loaded with various trackers that leak private details about their users to third parties. And no, the study authors take pains to insist, Google’s Incognito mode won’t keep your secrets. 

This latter point highlights broad confusion among the general public about what the Google Chrome feature actually does. Many people believe it renders their online browsing private, when in reality it just prevents Chrome from “[saving] your browsing history, cookies and site data, or information entered in forms.” 

Importantly, Google warns users, when using Incognito mode “[your] activity isn’t hidden from websites you visit, your employer or school, or your internet service provider.”

Which brings us back to porn. The study, conducted by researchers hailing from Microsoft, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pennsylvania, found a significant majority of pornography websites — 93 percent of the 22,484 analyzed — “leak user data to a third party.”

And it gets worse. “Our content analysis of the sample’s domains indicated 44.97% of them expose or suggest a specific gender/sexual identity or interest likely to be linked to the user,” continues the study. 

In other words, your specific — and perhaps extremely private kinks — stand a pretty good chance of becoming not so private. 

To illustrate this, the study authors lay out what for many is an all too familiar scenario.

“The websites [hypothetical porn consumer ‘Jack’] visits, as well as any third-party trackers, may observe and record his online actions,” explains the paper. “These third-parties may even infer Jack’s sexual interests from the URLs of the sites he accesses. They might also use what they have decided about these interests for marketing or building a consumer profile.”

Once companies have said profile on this unsuspecting porn consumer, continues the study, they “may even sell the data.”

This is problematic for all kinds of reasons, in addition to the skeevy factor alone. If your porn consumption reveals sexual preferences that are banned or outright illegal in repressive countries, this sort of tracking could literally threaten your physical safety. 

Thankfully, there is a way to watch porn anonymously online. It’s called Tor, and if it’s not your best friend already, that should change today. Tor is an incredibly easy to use free service that keeps your identity private while browsing online. 

There’s even a Firefox-based Tor browser, which means the only real technical skills you need to browse privately are the ability to download (and update) a browser. 

Oh, but there is one tiny catch: you can’t go full-screen any more. That’s right, it’s only the default window-size setting for your porn viewing from now on. This small tradeoff is made necessary because of a type of tracking, known as browser fingerprinting, that uses a computer’s unique hardware and software settings to essentially fingerprint unique devices. Maximizing a browser window, which reveals some display features, helps in that process. 

So there you have it: ditch the worthless Incognito mode, use Tor, and browse all that glorious internet porn to your heart’s content. Hey, you can even use Tor for things other than viewing porn — after all, privacy is sexy. 

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