An effective way to get someone’s opinion on a product or service is to create an online form or survey. Other times, online forms are the preferred way to sign up for newsletters, create an account, or buy tickets. Tap or click here for a list of apps that collect the most private data about you.
Websites use it more often than people realize, and it’s the backbone of how visitors enter data. But it’s not always as safe as you’d think. The general belief is that data is only saved when you hit the “submit” button.
But an investigation proves that this way of thinking is wrong. Read on to see how websites know what you type even if you don’t click submit.
Here is the backstory
Security researchers from KU Leuven, Radboud University and the University of Lausanne have found that nearly 3,000 websites in the United States capture user data before pressing the send button. This means that websites collect data such as your email address and may use it for targeted advertising and other purposes without your consent.
Even when you change your mind about submitting personal information, it’s probably already logged by websites. The practice is similar to how controversial software like keyloggers work. Keyloggers capture every keystroke on your keyboard and send the data to criminals.
According to the research results, the biggest offenders in the United States are well-known websites that cover news services and online courses. The top 10 sites whose online forms leak email data before submission are:
- Business Intern
- USA today
- Udemy (appears twice)
- Health Line
- The edge
The team also discovered that Facebook’s parent company, Meta and TikTok, used Automatic Advanced Matching which collects “hashed personal identifiers from web forms”. Contrary to their claims, both services capture data “when the user clicks on links or buttons that look nothing like a submit button.”
What can you do about it
Before filling out an online form, consider whether you need to do so. It may be best to create a burner email address that you can use for different websites. An email burner will prevent spam or phishing attacks on your main email account. Tap or click here to create a burner email.
The report suggests that as many as 8,438 US websites have shared data with Meta, and 7,300 websites have done so in the European Union. Other well-known sites and services have also been implicated in data sharing and reckless form capture, including:
If you’re wondering how many people abandon a web form before submitting it, it’s more than you think. A survey by The Manifest found that 81% of 502 respondents did.
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