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Canvas fingerprinting: White House and porn site are shadow buddies

Canvas fingerprinting capture computer movements as easily as President Obama's shadow is captured in the White House
Canvas fingerprinting capture computer movements as easily as President Obama's shadow is captured in the White House
Getty Images/Cory Lum Pool

A canvas fingerprinting expose making news rounds is that the White House and YouPorn websites are both in the bed with a pervasive online tracking method which shadows online browsers. This tracking is designed to make a lie of that old adage, "You can run but you can't hide." This "not-a-cookie" hides very well, indeed.

According to a Tuesday article on The Blaze, creepy has evolved into creative, or maybe the other way around. A fleshed-out list of sites violating online privacy can be found at ProPublica.

An alternative to a cookie, canvas fingerprinting creates fingerprints unique for each computer. As a browser surfs the net and their activity is picked up, the fingerprint instructs its web browsers to draw a hidden image. The browser's computer creates the image, each computer image unique from all others so that the identity of that computer is as unique as a signature or a fingerprint.

Once your browser creates your drawing, off that information goes to the website to be assigned a number. From that point on, it tracks the consumer hopping from site to site, ready to offer up custom targeted advertising based on a pattern of interest. That consumer now has its own little shadow buddy which may know things about them their best friends don't know.

Canvas fingerprinting is a 2012 creation , and a company called AddThis developed the nasty code which 95 percent of users are latching onto. It's particularly hard to get rid of, forget AdBlock Plus or Web browser privacy settings. None of these standard blocks can get around them.

According to most tech sources, it's going to take some effort on the browser's part to elbow fingerprinting out of their privacy zone. A start to consider for Firefox users, is NoScript, a Firefox Web extension to counter tracking. Keep in mind this is time prohibitive because it's necessary to check for accepted sites each time you plan to unblock Java.

However, there a site is attempting to list all of the top sites currently using canvas fingerprinting, but offenders may be outnumbering updates. Currently, the most recommended option is to install Electronic Frontier Foundation's Privacy Badger (EFF) browser extension. It appears canvas fingerprinting, like shadow government, is here to stay; only you can halt its creep into your online browsing experience.