Add-on developers for browsers sell the browsing history of millions of users to third parties, according to a show broadcast on German national television.
Journalists of the German broadcast Panorama managed to access a large collection of data that contained a browsing history from about 3 million German Internet users.
This data is collected by companies developing browser extensions for various popular browsers like Chrome and Firefox.
Journalists reported only one add-on, named Web of Trust or WoT, but did not fail to add that data is being collected from too many browser extensions or browsers.
These extensions can capture every user's internet traffic through the browser depending on how they are designed.
The data that journalists bought contained more than ten billion web addresses. The data was not completely anonymous, as the team managed to identify users in different ways.
They were able to reveal user identities, emails or even names, for example. PayPal (e-mail) addresses, Skype usernames or online check-in by airlines.
What is particularly worrying is that the information did not stop there. Researchers have been able to reveal information about police investigations, a judge's sexual preferences, internal financial business intelligence, drug searches, and prostitutes.
German journalists have reported that the Web of Trust extension can collect information such as date, location, web address, and username. This information is sold to third parties who can sell the data back to other interested companies.
WOT notes on its website that it has the data to third parties but only in an anonymous form. The team of journalists as we mentioned above managed to find more than one user accounts, which suggests that anonymization does not work as it should.
Let's say that the expansion has gone over 140 millions of times and not just by German citizens.