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Thursday, June 17, 2021

This app shows which websites track your activity, collect personal data

Ever got worried about your privacy while surfing on the world wide web for tons of hours?

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 26, 2020 2:25:55 pm
china, china hackers, china watching, china hybrid warfare, china intelligence service, china news, indian expressThe United States issued an emergency warning on Sunday, ordering government users to disconnect SolarWinds software which it said had been compromised by "malicious actors." (Representational Image)

Ever got worried about your privacy while surfing on the world wide web for tons of hours? Well, if you have been slightly aware of how websites across the internet track our activities, there are considerable reasons to be cautious towards the ever-murkier world of the Internet that might be tracking us right from what we type to our cursor motions or even worse, screen-recording our identities.

A mind-boggling research has been published on ‘The MarkUp’ site which was done by the investigative data journalist Surya Mattu and investigative reporter Aaron Sakin through their newly developed app ‘Blacklight’. It reveals some startling and fixating inferences about how much the nasty nexus of popular web-browsers, websites and advertisers have penetrated into our lives even while we are logged off, forget the snooping that generally gets wrecked upon us while being online.

The journalists conducted a survey of over 1,00,000 websites out of which 80,000 popular websites were scanned through ‘Blacklight’ only to note myriad worrisome observations. As per the survey, 87 per cent of the websites were quite insidiously tracking their users across the internet while some also tracked the mouse movements of the surfers. Indeed, a peculiar phenomenon also came to notice which led to the revelation of these websites following users’ digital habits in tandem with advertising companies.

Out of those 80,000 scanned websites, almost 5,000 were sending the cookie data along with the identity of the users even if the users block the third-party site’s access. In addition, 12,000 websites were found to be diligently monitoring the scrolls and clicks of the users through the motion of their mouse. So even if something is just typed and the user has not hit the enter button, then also it will be captured through the process called key-logging.

Furthermore, around 200 websites were found to be deceitfully sending users personal information like names, phone numbers and passwords to third-party applications even after the access was denied by the user.

Blacklight generally claims, that on an average majority of the surveyed websites introduced atleast 7 Ad-trackers along with providing access to 13 3rd-party cookies, at a time.

Besides that, the investigative tracking of these sites claim that such sort of personalised privacy tracking of the users could get easily enabled by much famous ‘Google Chrome’ browser, where cookies are sent secretly to track online activities of the people. Subsequently, these are then sent to third party advertising sites.

Various social media websites including Facebook, Twitter and Disqus were also seemingly involved in user surveillance to track their online movement to further enhance their advertising algorithm on the basis of preferences made by the users while doing online shopping and streaming online entertainment content.

Delving into the nitty-gritty of online tracking enmesh, it was found that Google Analytics tracker gets data on advertising profile based on the demography of the visitors and tends to share it with the customers on their agreement. Meanwhile, Google spokesperson claimed that the company doesn’t indulge in building advertising profiles and also discourages customers to target users on the basis of ads, as cited by The Markup.

Similarly, Facebook pixels trackers can also follow users on different websites on the net irrespective of them being online or offline. Eventually, this may link users’ browsing history for targeting advertisement generation. Interestingly, the investigation revealed that almost 69% of popular websites loaded Google analytics tracker while 30 per cent of them loaded Facebook pixels tracker with similar purposes.

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