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Study calls for websites to stop the free-for-all

June 6, 2011

Three-quarters of websites directly leak private information to third-party trackers, according to a study.

The study by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US looked at 120 popular websites and found that 75% leaked information – including email addresses, physical addresses, and the unique configuration of a user’s web browser.

The news comes as lawmakers on both side of the Atlantic investigate the way cookies are regulated, but according to the researchers the problem goes further than tracking cookies.

“Despite a number of proposals and reports put forward by researchers, government agencies, and privacy advocates, the problem of privacy has worsened significantly,” said WPI computer science professor Craig Wills.

“With the increasing and increasingly worrisome linkage of personal information from all sorts of websites, we believe it is time to move beyond what is clearly a losing battle with third-party aggregators and examine what roles first-party sites can play in protecting the privacy of their users.”Third-party sites have a powerful economic incentive to continue to collect and aggregate user information, so relying on them to protect user privacy will continue to be a losing battle

The study found that websites permitted tracking sites to link many disparate pieces of information, including browsing histories contained in tracking cookies and the contents of searches on health and travel sites, to create detailed profiles of individuals.

Source Study calls for websites to stop the free-for-all

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