Privacy on Adult Websites
Altaweel et al., Privacy on Adult Websites, Workshop on Technology and Consumer Protection (ConPro ’17), co-located with the 38th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, San Jose, CA (2017).
11 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2016 Last revised: 10 Mar 2017
Date Written: October 3, 2016
As it does in polite conversation, pornography goes unmentioned in policy discussions. This paper begins a conversation about this major use of the web, one that is sensitive and could lead to embarrassment and harm to users if publicized. In countries where pornography is illegal, tracking of these behaviors could have profound consequences for users. Viewing such material is legal in the US, yet authorities may wish to avoid the topic of protecting its consumers.
We document and discuss the user tracking dynamics on the most popular adult-oriented websites (N=11). Tracking dynamics are different on adult sites than other popular sites. There are relatively fewer third-party tracking companies involved and fewer cookies than on comparably popular sites. However, we found that Google trackers (Google Analytics and/or DoubleClick) were present on almost all the sites and that search terms were often leaked in plaintext to third parties and sometimes encoded in cookies. Finally, the dominance of video in pornography could explain the presence of Flash on almost half the sites. We found Flash being used to read HTTP cookie values, but we did not find any evidence of Flash cookies respawning.
Keywords: Adult Websites, Pornography
JEL Classification: D18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation