Many websites share users’ data without consent, study says

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A new report says consumers have less privacy on the Web than they think.

The study concludes that personally identifiable information is being regularly shared without consumers’ knowledge or consent, according to Jonathan Mayer, a graduate student in law and computer science at Stanford University who conducted it.

The study of 185 of the most-visited websites found that a consumer’s user name or user ID was shared with another website on 59% of the sites visited. The study also says websites appear to sell information about users such as gender, age, ZIP code and relationship status to data collectors.


‘Many first-party websites and third parties make what would appear to be incorrect representations about not sharing or collecting ‘personally identifiable information,’’ Mayer said in a written statement.

The report comes as privacy watchdogs look to put pressure on the Obama administration and the Federal Trade Commission to enact sweeping reforms that they say are needed to protect consumers’ privacy.

A coalition of 10 consumer, privacy and civil rights groups that are pushing for increased regulation is expected to unveil the new research from Stanford’s Computer Security Laboratory at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at which FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz is the keynote speaker.

The coalition includes the ACLU, Center for Digital Democracy and Electronic Privacy Information Center.


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-- Jessica Guynn

Image credit: Anya Johnson / Tribune Media Services