If you think the websites you visit regularly track down your every move, then you must know you have all the reasons to be paranoid. A team of researchers from Princeton University put up a list of 400 of the most visited websites which keep a close eye on all the actions users perform when they enter them. This is possible thanks to several third-party servers they are running.
The Princeton researchers are currently developing a series of studies called No Boundaries, where they document all these privacy-threatening practices used by websites. Since users aren’t aware this is happening, the purpose of the research is to teach them how to protect their information when going online.
What most of the websites do is a session replay, with the help of a few scripts. These scripts are basically lines of code which keep running while a user is visiting the page. While they do it, they record all the clicks and keystrokes of the user, and then allow a third-party participant to replay these actions.
Princeton researchers are worried that sensitive information might not stay private
It’s not unusual to hear about such scripts. Most of the time, they are used to improve a webpage by recording what it goes wrong with it. Also, they can help the developers make the sites more user-friendly, by seeing what they are most interested in. However, they record all the information they receive, and share it even if certain data is personal and should be kept private.
Therefore, you should be careful what you type on the website. Even if you don’t submit that information anywhere, the script can record it and send to a third-party serve. It would be reasonable that this information should stay anonymous, even after sending. However, being aware of the practice is definitely not a bad thing.
Most of the websites which run such scripts are extremely popular and widely used, with 482 of them being on the list of the first 50,000 most used pages. The Princeton researchers also posted a list of the session replay pages on their own website.
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