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    ClickZ: Device Fingerprinting Could Be Cookie Killer

    ClickZ reports on the issue of device “fingerprinting” (cataloging computers, mobile devices — including smartphones — and TV boxes in order to target behavioral advertising to the specific computer or cellphone users).

    Using new products from companies like BlueCava and Ringleader Digital, advertisers will be able to link and track individual consumers on their mobile phones, desktop PCs, tablet devices, games consoles, TVs – even their cars – and serve them ads based on activity across those devices.

    They will do so using a process often referred to as device fingerprinting, an emerging device identification technique which could eventually replace the cornerstone of online measurement and data collection, the cookie.

    When a connected device accesses content or services, it transmits bits of information about its properties and settings. For example, a smartphone might communicate details of which operating system and browser versions it’s running, its time zone, and which carrier network it’s using, to name but a few.

    These individual signals can be collected and pieced together to form a unique, persistent “fingerprint” for that specific device. That fingerprint can then be assigned an identifying number, and used for similar purposes as a cookie, such as ad targeting, frequency capping, and other forms of tracking. […]

    Fingerprints, however, track devices themselves, rather than the cookies placed on them. Even if the characteristics of a device change, its fingerprint is simply updated to reflect those changes. If, for example, a user upgrades his browser, the device can still be uniquely identified using other characteristics, and its fingerprint is simply altered to reflect the changes. […]

    Owing to the fact that a fingerprint can effectively last for the lifetime of a device, BlueCava’s Norris described opportunities to identify relationships between numerous individual devices. For example, if an e-commerce bookstore is using BlueCava’s technology it can tie the unique fingerprint of a desktop PC to information about its user’s behavior on the site, such as the books he or she viewed recently. If that user then signs into her account from a mobile device, the user could be served information on books tailored to her specific interests and past behaviors. […]

    Both BlueCava and Ringleader offer consumers the opportunity to opt out of tracking and targeting, as do most major cookie-based technology providers.

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