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    Stanford Study Reveals Web Privacy Concerns

    Oct 18, 2011
    Stanford (California) University’s computer security laboratory released a new study on consumers surfing the web. According to The Montreal Gazette, the survey revealed that consumers are not as anonymous as they think they are while surfing the web.

    Stanford (California) University’s computer security laboratory released a new study on consumers surfing the web. According to The Montreal Gazette, the survey revealed that consumers are not as anonymous as they think they are while surfing the web.

    The survey found that half of the 185 high-traffic websites individuals researched during the study tracked the username or user ID and shared the information with another site, such as Google and Facebook.

    Author of the study, Jonathan Mayer, explained that information leakage is a pervasive issue. Sixty-one percent of the websites he interacted with leaked a username or user ID.

    Mayer created accounts for sites and then tracked where the information was sent. He found that on Photobucket, a username was sent to 31 other websites. The study also found that, when a user signs up on the NBC website, the user’s e-mail addresses are shared with seven other organizations. The study also found that, while viewing a local ad on the Home Depot website, a user’s name and e-mail address was sent to 13 different organizations.

    The new survey has generated new initiatives for “do not track” rules. The Gazette reported that U.S. Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz said the study would help in the agency’s efforts to protect consumers’ online privacy and keep at bay what he called the “cyberazzi,” likening behavioral advertising and data collection to the paparazzi known for tracking celebrities’ every move.

    “A host of invisible cyberazzi, cookies and other data catchers follow us as we browse, reporting our every stop and action to marketing companies that in turn collect an astonishingly complete profile of our online behavior,” Leibowitz said at a privacy forum.

    In the article, Leibowitz applauded Microsoft Corp, Mozilla, and Apple for adding “do not track” features to their browsers and said he hoped Google would soon follow suit.

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