Privacy Study: Top U.S. Websites Share Visitor Personal Data

A study released Tuesday shows that 45% of the top 185 U.S. websites transmit identifying details about their visitors to at least four outside websites.


The data transmitted was primarily a “username” – which is the name a person uses to log into a website – or a user ID assigned by the website to a user. It was usually transmitted through referrers – which is information about the web page transmitted automatically.



Online date website OKCupid

In some cases, the data went much further: the study found for instance that the online dating website OKCupid sent the gender, age, zip code, relationship status and ‘drug use frequency’ to two companies that sell personal data in auctions, BlueKai and Lotame. Lotame also received data about ‘relationship status’ and ‘drug use frequency.’


Lotame confirmed that it has a data licensing relationship with OKCupid, but said it does not use data in the “drug use category.” BlueKai told Digits that it does not buy or sell data attributes like “drug use frequency” from OKCupid. “We do capture standard demographic attributes like zip, age and gender from several publishers,” a BlueKai spokesperson said.

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