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Meet the Online Tracking Device That is Virtually Impossible to Block
ProPublica ^ | 21 July 2014 | Julia Angwin

Posted on 07/21/2014 4:55:16 PM PDT by Theoria

A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.

First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.

The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on websites that use AddThis’ social media sharing tools. Other fingerprinters include the German digital marketer Ligatus and the Canadian dating site Plentyoffish. (A list of all the websites on which researchers found the code is here).

Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.

“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.

Harris said the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.”

(Excerpt) Read more at propublica.org ...


TOPICS: Computers/Internet; Conspiracy; Society
KEYWORDS: addthis; canvas; cookies; fingerprinting; internet; tracking
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1 posted on 07/21/2014 4:55:17 PM PDT by Theoria
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To: Theoria; GeronL
Most of the code was on websites that use AddThis’ social media sharing tools.

And people scoff when I call them Socialist Networking sites.

It's quite clear that FR is NOT that same sort of site.

2 posted on 07/21/2014 4:58:22 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (Elian Gonzalez sought asylum and was sent back to Cuba, send these kids back to THEIR parents.)
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To: Theoria

It isn’t a good idea to surf the web with facebook, gmail (google+), ebay or a lot of other sites “logged in”.

Your “facebook” profile is linked to articles of you like or comment on a news item, ebay ads on other sites are now displaying specific items that you once looked at on ebay’s site saying “there’s still time for you to buy this!” (paraphrased), etc.

You are being tracked and your interests logged. You are being market profiled. And as they say, it’s being done (in part) to focus their sales pitch on YOU as a consumer (imagine a political ad that sells a candidate’s positions one way for some users and differently for another user).

Privacy went out the window in the 1980s when telemarketers and junkmailers got Congress to permit the sale of your private information. That file on you keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Makes asking for your “mother’s maiden name” on financial transactions a bit worthless seeing as how everyone has that in your file as well.


3 posted on 07/21/2014 5:02:48 PM PDT by a fool in paradise (Elian Gonzalez sought asylum and was sent back to Cuba, send these kids back to THEIR parents.)
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To: Theoria

Well, there is a clear way to block it... If your browser continuously visited tens of thousands of random websites, all of the real stuff would be in the grass...


4 posted on 07/21/2014 5:04:18 PM PDT by babygene ( .)
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To: Theoria

“the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.””

Well, wasn’t that nice of them to decide that tracking virtually every site a person visits wasn’t a violation of a person’s privacy.


5 posted on 07/21/2014 5:09:22 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (The cure has become worse than the disease. Support an end to the WOD now.)
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To: Theoria

“websites like whitehouse.gov and YouPorn.com”

?

gee, aren’t those pretty much the same website nowadays?


6 posted on 07/21/2014 5:11:37 PM PDT by faithhopecharity ((Brilliant, Profound Tag Line Goes Here, just as soon as I can think of one..))
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To: faithhopecharity

The one makes me feel dirty, the other is porn...


7 posted on 07/21/2014 5:14:26 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: a fool in paradise
Re: “It's quite clear that FR is NOT that same sort of site.”

Only because we have no advertising at all.

But, since our Freepathons take longer and longer to fulfill each quarter, the “No Ad” option may be slipping away here, too.

I already get “personalized” ads at “Commentary” magazine, “National Review Online,” “The Daily Caller,” and the “Drudge Report.”

8 posted on 07/21/2014 5:15:46 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: Theoria
Good heavens! "Youporn.com", "largeporntube.com", and "sex.com" had this software installed? We've come to a pretty sorry day when the purveyors of Internet pornography can't be trusted.

Humor aside, I note that "blaze.com" is on that list as well, which is no real surprise given that the site has every other manner of annoying pop-ups, mouse-overs, and other adware installed. But "biblegateway.com"? What were they thinking?

9 posted on 07/21/2014 5:18:33 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: EEGator

which is which?


10 posted on 07/21/2014 5:25:48 PM PDT by faithhopecharity ((Brilliant, Profound Tag Line Goes Here, just as soon as I can think of one..))
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To: EEGator

whitehouse.gov........ like visiting YouPorn.com without the pictures?


11 posted on 07/21/2014 5:27:02 PM PDT by faithhopecharity ((Brilliant, Profound Tag Line Goes Here, just as soon as I can think of one..))
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To: faithhopecharity

Except more disgusting...


12 posted on 07/21/2014 5:31:12 PM PDT by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
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To: Theoria

EFF Says Its Anti-Tracking Tool Blocks New Form Of Digital Fingerprinting. http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/230430/eff-says-its-anti-tracking-tool-blocks-new-form-of.html


13 posted on 07/21/2014 5:33:04 PM PDT by Colorado Doug (Now I know how the Indians felt to be sold out for a few beads and trinkets)
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To: zeestephen

According to Ghostery, Google Analytics is hard at work as I view this page. Whether it’s coming from FR or something that’s attached itself to my browser, I don’t know. But when I hit a different page, the warning went away.


14 posted on 07/21/2014 5:34:40 PM PDT by PAR35
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To: Theoria

It’s only a matter of time till somebody comes up with a browser add on to block this.

I have found AddBlockPlus and Ghostery do a fantastic job of blocking and disrupting tracking sites. Ghostery reports the number of trackers a site is using. I’ve been amazed at the number of sites that use 30+ trackers.

FWIW, FR has just one tracker that I know of, Google Analytics, which is harmless.


15 posted on 07/21/2014 5:35:48 PM PDT by upchuck (Peace in the Middle East? Only after Jesus returns. All else is hot air and violence.)
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To: Colorado Doug

More information. http://gizmodo.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-sneakiest-new-online-tr-1608455771


16 posted on 07/21/2014 5:39:32 PM PDT by Colorado Doug (Now I know how the Indians felt to be sold out for a few beads and trinkets)
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To: Theoria

Virtual Machines
http://searchservervirtualization.techtarget.com/definition/virtual-machine


17 posted on 07/21/2014 5:43:51 PM PDT by expat1000 ("If you're explaining, you're losing" Ronald Reagan)
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To: upchuck

I bet NoScript would stop this. There isn’t much that gets around it.


18 posted on 07/21/2014 5:46:58 PM PDT by Cato in PA (Resist!)
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To: Theoria

Nothing new. Been around 20+ years.


19 posted on 07/21/2014 5:47:46 PM PDT by CodeToad (Arm Up! They Are!)
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To: a fool in paradise

I agree. This website is very streamlined for what it does.


20 posted on 07/21/2014 5:48:42 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: upchuck

Duh, stupid me! It says right in the article that NoScript blocks this. IMO, NoScript is as necessary as Adblock Plus. Yes, it requires effort to use properly, but in the process, you learn a whole lot about what’s going on in your browser.

Google Analytics isn’t harmless any more than Google itself is. There are open source analytics programs like Piwik that can gather data without feeding information to Big Data and the NSA.

That’s my one gripe with how FR is run, technologically speaking. Well, maybe that and not accepting Bitcoin donations.


21 posted on 07/21/2014 5:50:19 PM PDT by Cato in PA (Resist!)
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To: Theoria

I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg is all over it.


22 posted on 07/21/2014 5:51:50 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: Theoria

This is the creepiest tracking software to invade your privacy that I’ve heard about so far.

Read the article and there is a link to an opt out feature.


23 posted on 07/21/2014 5:55:41 PM PDT by wildbill (If you check behind the shower curtain for a murderer, if you find one what's your plan?)
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To: Theoria

It is not impossible to defend yourself from this boo chit.

When LSO’s first came on the scene the work arounds weren’t, at first, easy to dispense with.

These days you can block them at will.

You can also end the spying on you and surveillance by marketing thieves with fingerprinting.

Here is an excellent thread discussing the subject.

http://security.stackexchange.com/questions/23053/how-to-fight-browser-fingerprinting


24 posted on 07/21/2014 5:56:39 PM PDT by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
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To: a fool in paradise

Just make sure everything you put on Facebook is complete BS.


25 posted on 07/21/2014 5:58:00 PM PDT by bigbob (The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. Abraham Lincoln)
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To: babygene

I can create a Windows app in a couple of hours that would do that in the background. Give me a few days and I’ll post a download link to the installer. I’m campaigning against Facebook and I plan to provide the app free of charge.


26 posted on 07/21/2014 5:58:58 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: wildbill

do you trust that “opt out” feature?


27 posted on 07/21/2014 6:00:42 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: GeronL

Well, not completely—but what choice do you have?


28 posted on 07/21/2014 6:02:53 PM PDT by wildbill (If you check behind the shower curtain for a murderer, if you find one what's your plan?)
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To: faithhopecharity

LOL


29 posted on 07/21/2014 6:07:49 PM PDT by EEGator
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To: zeestephen; Jim Robinson

I can live with banner & button ads on FR if they’re controlled by FR and not a third party such as Google. They could be screened to ensure that the advertisers share are values, and the advertisers would know the audience.

Another good way to raise money would be through affiliate programs with online bookstores. I’m not sure how they work now, but with Amazon you can set up links to specific titles and earn commissions when visitors make purchases via those links. I would love to see an FR Bookstore page.


30 posted on 07/21/2014 6:09:31 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: PAR35; cripplecreek

Google Analytics is all over everything. I confess that I use it for my own site; I check it whenever someone sends me hate mail on Twitter (my URL is on my profile). I’ve noticed that every hate post on Twitter generates a spike in my site traffic for about an hour following the post in question.


31 posted on 07/21/2014 6:13:24 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: upchuck

I agree, Google Analytics (the free version) provides me valuable information on the effectiveness of my promotions, without invading anyone’s privacy. It gives me details about the location and referral sources of my visitors without any personal details that are useless to my business.


32 posted on 07/21/2014 6:16:38 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: Cato in PA

NoScript is a winner.

Suggest to John Robinson that he switch from GA to Piwik.


33 posted on 07/21/2014 6:19:00 PM PDT by upchuck (Peace in the Middle East? Only after Jesus returns. All else is hot air and violence.)
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To: Cato in PA
There are open source analytics programs like Piwik that can gather data without feeding information to Big Data and the NSA.

Are you familiar enough with any to make a recommendation? If there's a good Wordpress plugin that will replace GA I wouldn't mind trying it out.

34 posted on 07/21/2014 6:19:07 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: wildbill
Well, not completely—but what choice do you have?

As previously stated, NoScript is the answer. Used properly, it can stop most web-based malware and it's easy to turn off when a site requires JavaScript.


35 posted on 07/21/2014 6:20:49 PM PDT by 867V309 (Don't tread on me, bro)
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To: bigbob

I’m trying to goad FB into spiking my account by posting disparaging (and true) information about FB and Zuckerberg to my wall. Any links to FB dirt would be appreciated.


36 posted on 07/21/2014 6:21:58 PM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post on Twitter)
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To: zeestephen

>>I already get “personalized” ads at “Commentary” magazine, “National Review Online,” “The Daily Caller,” and the “Drudge Report.” <<

I am NOT a geek but I am sort of ‘capable’ with computers. If you use the latest browser with all the feel good attachments such as Active X and Flash you should expect to receive ads personalized just for you. That’s what they are meant to do.

I use Firefox 10.0, I know I am at least browser 15 updates behind the times. I do not have ActiveX or Java activated because they leave behind too many trails. I do not save my daily History or my daily Cookies because that is nothing but trails for others to market.

So, go into your Options / Tools or whatever the name is that control the features of your PC and shut down all the stuff you don’t need. Cut out the trails back to your PC by using MRU-Blaster and CCleaner everytime you shut you PC off for the night or at least once every day. Together they take maybe three minutes but they remove all the extra files the marketers use to track your every move.

Then add in tools such as AdBlock Plus and DoNotTrack. Make it hard for them to follow you around and you will rarely see an ad anywhere on the Internet.


37 posted on 07/21/2014 6:37:57 PM PDT by B4Ranch (Name your illness, do a Google & YouTube search with "hydrogen peroxide". Do it and be surprised.)
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To: Theoria

It would be EXTREMELY helpful if someone were to publish the domains or links to pages that have this code. By looking at some known examples, other domains or web pages with it could be identified.


38 posted on 07/21/2014 6:56:48 PM PDT by theBuckwheat
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To: PAR35
According to Ghostery, Google Analytics is hard at work as I view this page.

I am running Ghostery as well,but both it and Script Weeder are blocking it so it is not getting any information at all.

39 posted on 07/21/2014 6:57:59 PM PDT by Utilizer (Bacon A'kbar! - In world today are only peaceful people, and the mooslimbs trying to kill them-)
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To: Squawk 8888
"Another good way to raise money would be through affiliate programs with online bookstores."

Good idea. Amazon pays pretty good commissions, and not just on books. I am sure many Freepers shop there all the time anyway.

40 posted on 07/21/2014 7:01:12 PM PDT by UnwashedPeasant (Don't nuke me, bro.)
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To: Theoria

There are a great many people who simply cannot ENDURE to mind their own business.


41 posted on 07/21/2014 8:41:33 PM PDT by Jack Hammer
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To: a fool in paradise; GeronL

Impossible until some 14 year old nerd comes along and blocks it!!


42 posted on 07/21/2014 8:51:16 PM PDT by Morgana ( Always a bit of truth in dark humor.)
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To: Morgana

very likely


43 posted on 07/21/2014 8:51:38 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: Squawk 8888
My own first choice would be a 15 second video ad when we sign in - one, and done, and nice clean pages after that.

I get so much ad ware at places like “The Daily Caller” it almost stops my computer.

I don't know what the daily unique hit count is for Free Republic.

The source I looked at just gives “rank,” but hides the actual numbers behind a pay wall.

We need $1,000 a day in ad revenue to replace Freepathons.

I have to believe that 100,000 unique visitors a day would generate that easily.

But, Free Republic would lose some of its political autonomy.

If we shifted to ad funding, that means our sponsors become vulnerable to boycotts if outsiders get upset about the frank comments and frequent ridicule of the Left that often appear in these pages.

44 posted on 07/21/2014 11:58:51 PM PDT by zeestephen
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To: B4Ranch

Excellent advice.

Thank you.


45 posted on 07/22/2014 12:02:35 AM PDT by zeestephen
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To: zeestephen
If we shifted to ad funding, that means our sponsors become vulnerable to boycotts if outsiders get upset about the frank comments and frequent ridicule of the Left that often appear in these pages.

For some advertisers that isn't a bug, it's a feature. My target market is small businesses and the self-employed who work from home, who tend to be conservative or libertarian. My experience has been that leftist customers tend to be disorganized, lacking a viable business plan and slow to pay. It would therefore be to my benefit to advertise on FR in an unobtrusive fashion. It is for those reasons that I spend some time every day liberal-baiting on Twitter, because retweeting hate messages sent my way gains me conservative followers and generates traffic at my website. I've only been actively posting there for a week and the hate mail sent my follower count from 5 to 63.

46 posted on 07/22/2014 12:13:07 AM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post them on Twitter)
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To: Squawk 8888

That is elegantly devious, Squawk.

I’d like to take a look at your website.

Please send the link, either here or via FR mail.

Thanks.


47 posted on 07/22/2014 12:51:59 AM PDT by zeestephen
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To: zeestephen

You have mail :)

I have no qualms about my identity becoming available here by posting a link, I just don’t want to spam a thread by linking a website for my own business.


48 posted on 07/22/2014 1:40:42 AM PDT by Squawk 8888 (Will steal your comments & post them on Twitter)
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To: zeestephen

It isn’t just the advertising, it’s the complete lack of ebedded videos (just the URLs) and all sorts of annoying javascripts that slow down page loads.

I wouldn’t read the majority of articles in media today if I had to travel to each of the source websites. Too many of them get bogged down loading their additional content.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” - Joe Friday


49 posted on 07/22/2014 1:44:21 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (Elian Gonzalez sought asylum and was sent back to Cuba, send these kids back to THEIR parents.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

The lobbyists paid Congress to rule it doesn’t violate your privacy. This was done in the 1980s.

Harry Reid and other Democrats defend it today saying that the junk mail elderly people receive (with its heartfelt begging letters for po’ indian chil’run and free name labels for envelopes) is the ONLY contact some of them have with the outside world.


50 posted on 07/22/2014 1:48:05 AM PDT by a fool in paradise (Elian Gonzalez sought asylum and was sent back to Cuba, send these kids back to THEIR parents.)
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