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New Tracking Tool Is Like a Cookie That Can’t be Blocked

Cookies — the Internet kind, not the delicious baked treat — are very good at tracking your activity as you surf the Web. But a new study says that “canvas fingerprints” could be even better at it, especially since current privacy precautions don’t protect against them. A canvas fingerprint is essentially a hidden, unique picture drawn by a Web browser. Like cookies, they can be used to identify browsers and keep track of what websites the browsers are visiting. Unlike cookies, they can’t be easily blocked by adjusting your privacy settings or downloading ad-blocking software.

AddThis, the content-sharing company that wrote the script, says it uses the information for its own internal purposes, not to create profiles of people for advertisers. (The script was found running on popular sites like CBSLocal.com and TheBlaze.com). According to the study, researchers fear that the rapid pace at which new tracking tools are developed make it “doubtful that even privacy-conscious and technologically-savvy users can adopt and maintain the necessary privacy tools without ever experiencing a single misstep.”

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- Keith Wagstaff