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A newer kind of web tracking is almost impossible to stop

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 22, 2014
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You may think you're thwarting advertisers and other nosy web citizens by blocking cookies and invoking Do Not Track whenever possible, but that apparently isn't good enough. Researchers have just documented a newer web tracking technique, canvas fingerprinting, that's nearly impossible to stop. As it's simply drawing a unique, hidden image using standard web code, you can't just filter it out using higher privacy settings or ad blocking tools. You can sometimes opt out of personalization and targeted ads by installing a cookie, but you're otherwise out of luck unless software can start identifying and blocking these fingerprints.

One of the earliest proponents of the technology has been the social sharing service AddThis, which started public fingerprint testing earlier this year. While you may not have heard of the company, there's a good chance that you've been to one of the sites that uses its tracking; California's government, Perez Hilton and some porn sites (sorry, folks) are among the notable examples. If there's any comfort, it's that the test isn't all-encompassing and won't last forever. AddThis isn't targeting you based on government visits, and the fingerprinting is just inaccurate enough that the company may wind things down soon.

[Image credit: Soe Than Win/AFP/Getty Images]

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