In 2017, there were 28.5 billion visits to the world’s most popular free porn site. This staggering figure is up from 21 billion visitors in 2015, and 23 billion in 2016. The site had 4 million video uploads last year, and nearly 92 billion video views in 2016, which equates to if every single person on planet Earth (man, woman, child, and infant) had consumed 12.5 videos each. All these numbers are shocking, but how does this site have such in-depth analytics?

Well, because they track it, of course. And they’re not the only ones.

It is always difficult for studies to get a truly accurate number when evaluating the percentage of porn consumers because many don’t admit to their behind-closed-door searches. But as detailed in a fascinating article on Motherboard, the porn consumers of the world may not have a say in whether their porn habits stay a secret anymore, thanks to new-age online tracking and browser fingerprinting.

How Exactly Is Porn Content Tracked?

The article quotes software engineer Brett Thomas, who recently met a member of the online pornography industry. The two got to talking about economics and while the porn professional insisted that collecting and selling the personal data of porn visitors wasn’t part of the industry’s business model, Thomas wasn’t convinced.

“If you are watching porn online, even in incognito mode, you should expect that at some point your porn viewing history will be publicly released and attached to your name,” Thomas proclaimed in a blog post titled, “Online Porn Could Be the Next Big Privacy Scandal.”

Related: Porn Stats: Which Country Produces And Hosts The Most Porn?

Here is how it could happen: your browser—Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc. (we would say Internet Explorer but really who uses that anymore?)—broadcasts all sorts of information that can be used to identify you as you surf the web. As you click around the internet, you’re leaving your tracks, sometimes called “footprints” or “fingerprints,” all over the pages you visit. Ever wondered why you start to see sidebar ads and suggestions of things that you were recently shopping for online? It’s because websites track, share, and use your online activity to more effectively advertise to you as a consumer. Creepy, right?

So it’s easy to see that it would only be a matter of linking one footprint to another, and someone who knows what they’re doing could—for example—spot the same consumer who viewed their Facebook profile after visiting several porn sites.

Where Does This Data Go?

Thomas states that “almost every traditional website that you visit saves enough data to link your user account to your browser fingerprint, either directly or via third parties.”

So, for example, when you click a porn video, you’re not just sending a request to the porn site—what is called a first-party request—you’re sending third-party requests to Google, to web-tracking companies, and to a company called Pornvertising, too. And here’s the kicker: this all happens even if you’re browsing in private mode. You’re also sending other data that can be used to identify your computer, like your IP address.

Related: Meet The UK Dad With A Sex Robot That Hangs Out With His Kids

All that, paired with the continued rise of hacking, Thomas says, means that a complete list of your personal porn habits could easily be 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 a person’s porn-viewing history with the entire world via the internet. Yikes.

This, of course, could have some very big and very serious ramifications, even beyond the potential humiliation for an exposed porn consumer.

Basically, if people think that erasing their internet history wipes out the record of their late night porn binges and work-hour porn visits, they should think again.

But, there are opposing views on this issue. For example, Pornhub was the only porn site that returned the author’s request for comment for the original article. They argued against this assumption and issued a statement calling Thomas’s views “not only completely false, but also dangerously misleading.”

In their lengthy response, the popular porn site pointed out the massive amount of server space they would need to store users’ viewing histories—they get 300 million requests a day—and they estimate that storing all of that would require 3,600 terabytes of space. Not to mention that sifting through all the data would be close to impossible and insanely time-consuming. Even so, would Pornhub be honest enough to admit that they’re data mining their consumers, if they were?

Related: Popular Porn Site Reveals Women Search For Hardcore Genres More Often

Regardless, it is true that each of the internet-security researchers and experts agreed that a porn consumer’s browsing habits aren’t nearly as private as they think.

Another important point, Thomas added, is that incognito mode does “virtually zero to stop this tracking, and at best your address bar won’t auto-complete to something embarrassing, but advertisers and data brokers still get the information. I have no idea what, if anything, they do with it—but it’s all sitting in a database somewhere.”

Why This Matters

This shouldn’t be all that surprising. It’s only fact that just about anywhere you go on the internet, you’re being tracked. Not necessarily for malicious purposes, but because web developers, including porn-site developers, have become reliant on these third-party tools to increase the functionality of their sites and see what drives consumers.

The porn sites might not even be interested in saving or collecting your data at all. One major site’s policy states that it “…does not record its unregistered consumers’ IP addresses or activity.” So while the actual porn sites (who want to keep your business by maintaining your privacy) may not be the potential threat, it’s the data brokers and web trackers that could build a detailed profile of the porn someone consumes.

Regardless of if a porn consumer apocalypse is released by a very ambitious hacker, the truth remains the same: porn is harmful and research is proving it. Serious as they certainly are, these privacy risks of viewing pornography don’t compare to the societal, emotional, and physical risks of viewing pornography— they don’t compare to porn’s impacts on the global problem of human trafficking, or its dangerously addictive potential, or its toxic influence on relationships.

These privacy and security risks, do, however, provide yet another reason to fight porn and kick it to the curb. It’s simply not worth it.

Get Involved

If you found this article interesting, SHARE it! Spread the facts on the harmful effects of porn and its effects on society.

Spark Conversations

This movement is all about changing the conversation about pornography and stopping the demand for sexual exploitation. When you rep a tee, you can spark meaningful conversation on porn’s harms and inspire lasting change in individuals’ lives, and our world. Are you in? Check out all our styles in our online store, or click below to shop:

 

Send this to a friend