Privacy experts are calling on the web to adopt a better approach to setting the privacy settings of web browsers, after a new security study suggested users had inadvertently set a new record for privacy violations.
Security researcher Peter Venezia said in a blog post Wednesday that a number of browser makers are failing to set the default privacy settings for web browsing on their platforms.
“We are now at a point where we can see the privacy-invasive behavior of our browsers in action,” Veneziac said.
Users are not only choosing not to protect their privacy, they are choosing to do so at the expense of the user experience, he added.
“We have seen an explosion of user data being collected, used, shared, and used in the browser, with browsers providing access to that data for users to use and share.
In many cases, users are not aware of this, and the browser is providing the information to advertisers and other third parties,” Veneria said.
The study was led by security firm Check Point, which found that more than 90 percent of web users have opted to turn off cookies and other tracking technologies, including tracking analytics.
It also found that just 37 percent of users were aware of the “tracking code” that allows websites to collect data from them.
Venezia noted that the data that is collected can be used to identify people and their location, and that the information is used to track the user’s activities.
Some browsers also track the device users are using, Venezian said, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari.
“The fact that these tracking technologies are so ubiquitous that most people do not even know about them is extremely concerning,” he added, noting that the study showed how important it is for web users to understand how to protect themselves.
He also noted that tracking cookies is only a small portion of the problem, noting how browser makers must also take steps to ensure that users can opt out of the tracking.
The survey also found most web users were not aware that web cookies could be used in ad tracking, and they were not given the option to opt out.
The researchers also found many web users did not know how to remove tracking technologies from their web browsers.
“Most web users who use browsers for online gaming are unaware of how to do it, and how to change settings,” Venezi said.
“This lack of awareness is one of the major drivers behind the rise of malware and other threats to the online privacy of web browsing.”