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Thousands of popular websites suffer from 'web forms leak'

Thousands of popular websites suffer from ‘web forms leak’

Thousands of websites can view without user permission if you enter your email address in an online form. You don’t even have to click Submit. This is evident from a large-scale study conducted by KU Leuven, Radboud University and Lausanne University.

According to the researchers, a person who wants to sign up for an online newsletter may be dealing with a “leaked web form”. This is an online form where a third party that specializes in tracking internet users can collect someone’s information if they enter their email address. In this way, an attempt is made to find out what websites a person visits, in order to compile an individual profile and unleash targeted advertisements on that person.

Even if someone changes their mind at the last minute and removes their email address from the web form, these sites will still redirect them to third parties without the user’s knowledge.

Vanden Buri and Marriott

After a researcher discovered this technology on a website, the team began scanning 100,000 of the most frequently used websites. The researchers found 1,844 sites that sent data from European users, and 2,950 sites that did so with data from American users. The list includes, for example, Shopify webshop, hotel chain website Marriott and several US news sites such as Fox News And USA TODAY† Researchers also found the website of electrical wholesaler Vanden Bury closer to home. In 52 cases, passwords were also passed to third parties.

dead and tiktok

“At first glance, these percentages seem low, but this is for websites with tens of millions of users,” explains Bart Brennell, Professor of Cryptography at KU Leuven. This phenomenon is known to be a technique to circumvent electronic privacy legislation, but it is being done by more sites than previously thought. We cannot say how many users have been affected by this technology.

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The study showed that large social media companies Meta and Tiktok also collect information from users via other websites. In all, the team found 8,438 US and 7,379 European sites that may have sent data to Meta, and 154 US and 174 European sites that may have been transmitting data to Tiktok. The study took more than a year to complete. Meanwhile, the team of researchers developed a a tool that other researchers can use to check if websites are using this technology.