Is Your Browsing History Accessible Without Your Consent?

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Thanks to an error in JavaScript — the code used in every day applications like Gmail and Google maps — your web surfing history may be viewable by outside companies without your permission. (More on TIME.com: Commerical Spying: Worse Than We Knew)

A study conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, found that 485 out of the internet’s top 500,000 websites (according to Alexa Global) are capable of engaging in a practice known as “history sniffing,” or the ability to look into your browser’s history without you ever knowing.

While not as dangerous as malware (which can be used to steal confidential information like your banking numbers), the thought that someone out there can see the websites you’ve been visiting should raise more than a few flags.

UC San Diego computer science professor Sorin Lerner had this to say:

“JavaScript is a great thing, it allows things like Gmail and Google Maps and a whole bunch of Web 2.0 applications; but it also opens up a lot of security vulnerabilities. We want to let the broad public know that history sniffing is possible, it actually happens out there, and that there are a lot of people vulnerable to this attack.”

The website What The Internet Knows About You is a good place to start if you’re worried about companies snooping around in your history folders.

But to protect your privacy, it’s recommended that you update your current browser to the very latest versions of Firefox, Safari or Chrome (Internet Explorer doesn’t as of yet have a fix, or at least until IE9 comes out in 2011), which have all been patched and should let you browse in peace.

More on TIME.com:

FTC’s ‘Do Not Track’ Is More ‘Please Don’t Track’

Google’s Practices Under Regulation By EU Regulators

Google Launches E-Book Store, Mobile and Web Based Apps

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