While we’ve heard and learned about our “online footprints,” in a July 21st article, Russell Brandom just wrote about a disturbing new phenomenon called “canvass fingerprinting” (www.theverge.com; “Companies have a tricky new way to track your movement across the web).

As Mr. Brandom wrote, the “canvass fingerprinting” was discovered  by researchers at Princeton University.  As described, this new web-tracking technology can follow users between and among websites.  As Mr. Brandom reports, it is “nearly impossible to block”  even if an individual has disabled cookies on his browser and isn’t logged into Facebook.  Per his article, the Princeton researchers discovered that “canvass fingerprinting” is being used by 5% of the top 1,000 Internet sites including Whitehouse.gov and the official website for the State of California.

How it works is also what makes it so strong even if an individual has blocked cookies on his browser.  The technology asks the browser to draw a hidden image and then uses that image to track the browser’s unique properties. Mr. Brandom reports that it appears that AddThis created “canvass fingerprinting” as part of its efforts to find alternatives to cookie tracking.  Mr. Brandom also adds that AddThis might end the “canvass fingerprinting” trials as they found, he writes, that the test results are “not uniquely identifying enough.”

Whether AddThis does or doesn’t end the trials, what is clear is the important point with which Mr. Brandom ends his article.  The key takeaway is that simply blocking cookies and using other means may not be enough to thwart being tracked.  That is very worrisome to those of us concerned about protecting our privacy online.