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Forbes: Digital Fingerprinting By Advertisers Has Americans Pegged

By    |   Thursday, 20 June 2013 08:07 AM

The web cookie that marketers use to track consumers is becoming obsolete, but the new digital fingerprint technology replacing it is even more creepy and privacy-invasive, according to Forbes.

Digital fingerprinting allows a website to look at the individual characteristics of a computer such as plugins and software, screen size, time zone, fonts and other features. Further, an estimated 94 percent of browsers have unique identities.

The resulting profile is just as unique as a real fingerprint — no two are considered exactly alike. And apparently, there's no escape from the digital version.

Forbes Columnist:
‘Who the Hell Cleared This?’

"Fingerprinting may prove a more robust tracking technology than cookies because the user's identity endures even if they erase their cookies. Making changes to your software and settings only makes you more identifiable, not less," Forbes explained.

Problems with the current state-of-the-art tracking cookie include the fact they do not work on mobile phones or with certain email programs like Microsoft Outlook.

The head of online advertising for one major company, who asked not to be identified, told Forbes fingerprinting is the key to future online marketing.

"At the end of the day, there isn't really a legal case against it; there isn't really a privacy case against it. It's really a PR thing. What are you going to do when The Wall Street Journal decides to write a nasty article about the practice?" he said. "If you don't want anybody to know anything you've done online, don't go online.

Forbes said one San Francisco startup, AdStack, partners with a company called Rapleaf to learn more about people from their email addresses.

Rapleaf offers data such as age and gender and says it has at least one field of additional information for about 80 percent of all U.S. consumer email addresses, Forbes reported. AdStack uses that information to deliver up targeted ads to email recipients.

"There is a pretty fine line between cool and creepy," said AdStack CEO Evan Reiser. "And for anything that I think is really great technology I can guarantee there is someone out there who thinks it's horrible and we shouldn't do it."

According to Quartz, Americans willingly gave away their privacy to online advertisers long ago.

"The conundrum of privacy in a digital era is that the more of it you give away, the better the service you're using becomes," Quartz said. It noted Facebook works by mining a consumer's friends and preferences, Foursquare analyzes personal data and Twitter and other services make recommendations based on a consumer's existing connections.

"Just because online services sell our information to advertisers, it doesn't mean that the government should have any natural right to it as well," Quartz asserted. "We need to stop acting like they do and demand accountability."

Forbes Columnist: ‘Who the Hell Cleared This?’

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The web cookie that marketers use to track consumers is becoming obsolete, but the new digital fingerprint technology replacing it is even more creepy and privacy-invasive, according to Forbes.
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2013-07-20
Thursday, 20 June 2013 08:07 AM
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