Privacy & Porn: Is Free Internet Porn Really Free ?

On May 26, 2012 a new privacy directive for online business, specifically aimed at the use of cookies on websites, went into effect across the European Union. That directive has not been adopted in the United States though. Over the past 5 years there has been a marked increased in the use of cookies by large websites to track surfers as they move across the Internet as well as to collect personal information for advertising purposes. Many feel as though the insertion of cookies onto a surfer’s computer without their consent is a violation of that surfer’s privacy. Others (mostly companies, advertisers and websites) feel as though that cookies enhance a users experience online and make it easier for websites to serve up information and ads that the user would be interested in receiving.

By now you may be asking what is a cookie. A cookie is a small text, flash or HTML5 file that a website can insert into your computer when you visit that website to help keep track of different things, like if you want to stay logged into a website, or your preferences within a website. Cookies are also used for advertising purposes. As a surfer travels across the Internet and clicks on different ads, visits certain sites and searches for different items cookies are there to record and relay this information to different ad servers. Many cookies relay information to are the owners of the websites the surfer is visiting. The website may insert their own cookies to enhance the surfer’s experience on their website. And for the most part without those types of cookies browsing the Internet would be much more difficult. However, there is also what is called third party cookies.

Third party cookies are usually for ad tracking and data mining purposes. Website A will sell third party cookie placement to Advertiser B. Advertiser B wants to track you everywhere you go to serve only certain advertisements to you as you surf. Based on the cookies you pick up along your surfing this will tell Advertiser B what you like to watch, where you live, how much you make, what you do for a living – basically gathering as much personal information as possible. This is where the real money is in advertising – targeted ads. So when you visit Website A they insert a third party cookie onto your computer for Advertiser B to track through an ad server. For this Advertiser B pays Website A a fee. Obviously the more visitors Website A has the more money they will make from Advertiser B. (Please see http://lifehacker.com/5887140/everyones-trying-to-track-what-you-do-on-the-web-heres-how-to-stop-them ). To make real money from this online you need a huge social network like Twitter or Facebook or you need a huge network of sites that surfers visit daily. Individual websites do not have the traffic to monetize this type of advertising.

According to Alan Henry of LifeHacker.com, “If you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product, not the customer.” In the world of free Internet porn, YOU are the product. More specifically your information is the product and its being data mined and tracked. Many are aware of the privacy concerns swirling around social media sites like Facebook. However, no one stops to think that this may also be an issue with your favorite free porn tubesite. Many of the larger porn tubesites have enormous amounts of daily traffic. Millions of people visit these sites collectively each day. Not to mine & track those visitors would be economically shortsighted for those tubesites.

Remember, there is no free lunch. Google hasn’t become of the most powerful companies in the world by supposedly giving away the farm for free. Have you ever once wrote a check or made a credit card payment to Google ? Probably not. If most of their services are free so how do they make money? According to Matthew Yglesias of Slate.com (Please see http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2012/03/apple_vs_google_the_war_over_third_party_cookies_.html )

Google is not a charity, but it has built a remarkably successful company by giving products away for free. It’s a minor miracle that the best search engine, the best Web browser, the best email client, the best map software, and the world’s most popular mobile phone operating system are all made by the same company and available to the world free of charge. That’s not corporate beneficence: It’s the fruit of Google’s hunger for data, but it tastes sweet just the same.

Few ever think about the information they are giving to Google to resell each and every time they perform a search, look for an address on Google Maps or use their GMail account but that is exactly what is happening. Almost no one thinks about the information they are providing to their favorite free porn tubesite with each masturbatory session spent surfing through your favorite videos. No one stops and thinks, how can all of this great porn be free just as no one thinks how Google can provide what they do for free.

In the days long ago porn consumers were afraid of going into an adult store for fear they might run into someone they knew. Porn aficionados would lock away there “stash” in a closet or under a bed to keep their contents secret. In the world of Internet porn there is no anonymity. It is very difficult to secretly surf your favorite sites. Every click, every visit, every download is being monitored and tracked somehow. The users of BitTorrent sites are finding out that fact the hard way by being named in copyright lawsuits across the United States. Some estimates indicate that more than 250,000 porn downloaders have been sued in a last couple of years.

So how can you check to see if your favorite free porn tubesite or even paid membership site has third party cookies embedded into it ? That is fairly easy to do. There is a site called CookieCert.com ( http://www.cookiecert.com ). You can search just about any website on CookieCert. As an example I decided to check Playboy.com, one of the best know adult brands in the United States ( http://www.Playboy.com ). According to CookieCert.com, Playboy.com has a cookie score of 1 out of 5 stars. Their verdict is that Playboy.com is a site you should keep away from. Their “cookie audit” revealed that there were 17 permanent first party cookies and 12 third party cookies that were inserted into a test computer when they visit Playboy.com. Of these 12 third party cookies most are from a company called Pointroll.com ( http://www.pointroll.com ). Pointroll is a Gannett Company. You might have heard of Gannett before. You might have actually seen their billboard ads next to a highway. Well, Gannett is also in the online advertising business. From Pointroll’s About Us page;

Founded in May 2000, PointRoll, a Gannett company, has been instrumental in the evolution of digital engagement, pioneering technology including the expandable banner ad, in-banner video, and numerous technologies that enabled marketers to create, deliver and measure display ads as rich and full featured as a microsite without disrupting the user experience. Powering 55% of all rich media campaigns online and serving over 450 billion impressions for more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 brands, PointRoll delivers results.

According to Pointroll.com, “as the digital landscape evolves, campaigns are becoming less about places and more about people – where to find the right audience and engage them across online, mobile, and other devices and platforms.” As Alan Henry said you are the product. Further, if you believe that Fortune 500 companies will not partner with porn companies you may want to think again.

Now that it is obvious that Playboy.com has third party tracking cookies the question becomes – so what ? Does Playboy.com mention cookies in there Privacy Policy ? Yes they do. Do they mention third party cookies ? No, they do not. Here is their Privacy Policy http://www.playboy.com/privacy-policy. However, in all fairness, legally they do not have to. However, on Playboy’s German based site, Playboy.de, they are required by EU privacy laws to disclose such information. Here is the third party cookie information from Playboy.de ( http://www.playboy.de/ ) which can be found at the very bottom of the footer by clicking on this link Über unsere Werbung ;

Data collection of other service providers in usage-based online advertising

In order to optimize advertising to you based on your user interests, we have allowed these other companies to collect usage data. On the websites of these companies for more data protection information to the respective offer:

As you can see third party cookies and mainstream advertising are now very much part of the acceptable business model of porn in the United States. And while the European Union may have passed a new stringent privacy law we have yet to do so here. You as an American have much less privacy rights online then surfers in most of the other developed countries in the world.

So the next time you are surfing your favorite pornsite or tubesite you may just want to consider who’s watching you as you’re getting off to your favorite adult star. Big brother is watching and he likes porn. Make sure you read the Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy of the adult sites you visit and if that site has a European counterpart – read their Privacy Policy as well. It might surprise you to see who’s cookies are being inserted into your computer.

For more information on third party cookies you can visit http://www.allaboutcookies.org/privacy-concerns/

If you want to remove third party cookies from your computer and prevent them in the future you can visit http://www.allaboutcookies.org/manage-cookies/

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