Searching Medical Symptoms Online? You're Being Tracked

Another one of the Internet's great benefits is the fact that medical knowledge is just a click away. From a sore throat to a lump to advice about your child's cold, millions of people search symptoms and use "doctor websites" to get free and easy answers.

After you conduct a search, let's say for example, for "coughing up blood," some of the results on the SERP will be private and some public/government-related. It doesn't seem to matter-when you click, you are being tracked.

Being Tracked

The webXray software developed by University of Pennsylvania researcher Tim Libert took 2,000 common disease search queries, and found that in 91 percent of the results, what you clicked was reported to third parties. Yes, even from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

You do a search. You click the result link. They send that information to a third party. The CDC has tracking elements and then sends to Google, social media giants and data brokers such as Acxuiom and Experian.

"webXray is a platform for monitoring third-party HTTP requests on large numbers of webpages. As a departure from existing tools, webXray also facilitates the identification of the real-world entities to which requests are made by correlating domain request with the owners of domains. In other words, webXray allows you to see which companies are monitoring which pages," from Libert's site.

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