“Private browsing modes don’t prohibit all cross-service tracking mechanisms.” In other words, switching to private when you browse and clearing your history won’t stop porn companies from being able to track you.
You’re also sending other data that can be used to identify your computer, like your IP address.
All that, paired with the continued rise of casual hacking, Thomas says, means that a complete catalog of your personal porn habits is perennially on the verge of being leaked to the public.
Thomas believes that it’s not only possible but likely that a hacker will whip up a database that can share your porn-viewing history with the entire internet.
This, of course, has any number of damaging implications, even beyond the potential humiliation for an outed porn watcher—if you think erasing your internet history wipes out the record of those food-fetish vids or CGI beast porn, think again.
It’s a truth about the modern internet that just about anywhere you go, you’re being tracked.
Not necessarily for any malicious purposes but because web developers, including porn-site developers, have become reliant on these third-party tools, many of which are “free,” to increase the functionality and shareability of their sites.
Thomas’s case went something like this: Your browser (Chrome, Safari, whatever) has a very unique configuration, and it broadcasts all sorts of information that can be used to identify you as you click around the web.
You’re basically leaving “footprints,” as Thomas calls them (others prefer “fingerprints”), all over the webpages you visit.
Pornhub was the only porn site that returned a request for comment.
They issued me a statement calling Thomas’s conclusions “not only completely false, but also dangerously misleading.” In their lengthy, compelling rebuttal, Pornhub pointed out the vast amount of server space they would need to store users’ viewing histories—they get 300 million requests , and they estimate that storing all of that would require 3,600 terabytes of space.
Worse, there are still plenty of places around the world where individuals are persecuted for their sexual orientation.