If people were outraged about Facebook’s ethics violation when they conducted psychological experiments on unsuspecting and unconsenting users, I imagine they’ll be equally unhappy to learn about a new, persistent tracking tool that’s being used to spy on users of millions websites. Aside from this Mashable post and a Forbes article, though, I’m not seeing many people talking about what I personally think is a pretty big deal.
Long story short: researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium just released a study titled “The Web never forgets: Persistent tracking mechanisms in the wild,” a large-scale study of three advanced web tracking mechanisms, one of which is called canvas fingerprinting. It works by instructing the visitor’s web browser to draw a hidden image, which then allows the websites that user visits to be tracked, over-ruling the person’s browser privacy settings and in spite of anti-tracking tools. Then the data on each users’ web browsing behavior is used to create a profile for that person. And this canvas fingerprinting thing? It was created by social sharing tool creator AddThis.
I’m sorry but it’s a sad day when YouPorn immediately removes AddThis from their site once they realize that it contains secret spy software…but the White House doesn’t.