It Is Easy To Expose Users’ Secret Web Habits, Say Researchers

An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Two German researchers say they have exposed the porn-browsing habits of a judge, a cyber-crime investigation and the drug preferences of a politician. The pair obtained huge amounts of information about the browsing habits of three million German citizens from companies that gather “clickstreams.”
These are detailed records of everywhere that people go online. The researchers argue such data — which some firms scoop up and use to target ads — should be protected. The data is supposed to be anonymised, but analysis showed it could easily be tied to individuals. People’s browsing history is often used to tailor marketing campaigns. The results of the research by Svea Eckert and Andreas Dewes were revealed at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas this weekend. The pair found that 95% of the data they obtained came from 10 popular browser extensions. “What these companies are doing is illegal in Europe but they do not care,” said Ms Eckert, adding that the research had kicked off a debate in Germany about how to curb the data gathering habits of the firms.

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