19th Feb 2019

Advertisers put EU porn consumers under microscope

  • UK and Ireland drive the most traffic in the EU to the world's largest porn site (Photo: wajakemek | rashdanothm)

The UK and Ireland top EU per capita viewers on the world’s largest porn hub, amid questions on privacy for advertisers who profile users.

People are watching a lot of free online porn and PornHub is the world’s largest “tube” site.

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Tube sites hosts free premium adult videos. The traffic is then routed to pay-for sites with the help of advertising agencies, such as the Geneva-based Flex Multimedia Group.

Launched around 2008, tube sites are now the main market for online porn and the number one access point for adult content.

In 2014, PornHub averaged 2.1 million visits per hour for a grand total of 18.35 billion visits.

Some 78.9 billion videos were viewed, up from 63.2 billion in 2013.

But few users are aware of the level of surveillance.

“They are tracking everything you browse,” said Pierre de la Celle, operations director at Flex Multimedia Group, on Thursday (21 January) at a data protection conference in Brussels.

This includes, among other things, the categories viewed, time spent on a video, time spent on preview, visit frequency, city, language, ISP, and even screen size and resolution.

“The main goal for everyone is to make money,” says De la Celle.

Advertisers are interested in what people want and not their identities, he says.

“We don’t care who is on the website, we care about what the person on the website wants”.

Julia Hornle, a senior lecturer at the University of London, says that while the privacy risks for people who are viewing legal content are minimal, the “digital fingerprint” of users raises concern.

“Although it is not a named individual, it’s still an identifier which links this data to a particular computer or connection,” she told the conference in the EU capital.

Other privacy implications surface when so-called metadata collected by the advertisers can lead to possible disclosures if leaked or stolen.

Metadata can show a person’s habits as it includes a broad sweep of information including browsing history, map searches, email activity and smart phone GPS data.

The issue has been highlighted in numerous cases, studies, and tools.

World Cup turnoff

Meanwhile, PornHub’s data reveals a number of porn viewing trends in the UK and elsewhere.

Scotland’s bid to leave the UK last September saw an 84.5 percent of the population head to the polls.

It also marked a significant drop in porn traffic, which spiked again when polls shut.

“Voter polls opened at 7am local time and didn’t present any major disruptions in site traffic until 2pm when it began to dip, then bottomed out at around 11 percent below the usual numbers between 4 and 5 pm,” it says.

Brits are also 1184 percent more likely to search for the term “mixed race” than Scots.

But the Scottish vote was not the biggest urn-off on a global scale - traffic in some countries dropped 40 percent in the final World Cup match between Argentina and Germany.

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