Think you’re reading the news for free? New research shows you’re likely paying with your privacy

Tim Libert, University of Pennsylvania and Victor Pickard, University of Pennsylvania

You may already know that every time you go online, your browsing history could be exposed to numerous advertisers and data brokers who then send you “targeted” advertisements.

But what about visiting the news websites you trust most? Our current research finds that browsing news-related websites actually exposes you to over twice as much tracking as the rest of the web.

The surprising extent to which news organizations subject readers to third-party tracking deserves closer attention. As a society, we often hold news organizations to higher ethical standards. They’re not just businesses; they’re supposed to provide a vital public service, and they depend on public trust.

While the ethics of readers unknowingly “paying” for content with their privacy are certainly questionable, the practice is also indicative of the precarious situation the news industry finds itself in. Meanwhile, the rise of ad-blockers – a hindrance to the business model of news websites – has only further complicated matters.

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