Tuesday, July 2, 2013

We’re all Snowflakes…Fingerprinting as a Cookie Replacement

The Globe and Mail recently ran a great article about new(ish) technology that is designed to combat the "cookie problem".  For years, advertisers have relied on cookies to help target and re-target ads to consumers.  Cookies allow marketers to “book mark” consumer activity so that they could better address their levels of interest.  Every time a consumer would visit the advertiser’s site, a cookie would track their behavior beyond the actual visit.  With the growing trend of sense and response web design, cookies have played a critical role in delivering enhanced experiences online – sites remembering your preferences, making suggestions on what to browse etc.  The problem with cookies is that people felt they were creepy and over the years, more and more of the population has opted out of cookies leaving advertisers in a jam for targeting.  Studies have shown that at lat least 30% of the population deletes their cookies each month.

There’s a new technology emerging as the super hero for online advertising called fingerprinting.  Fingerprinting creates unique identities for each desktop and mobile device based on the user settings.  According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, 94 percent of browsers that use flash or java have unique identities.  In other words, you, the consumer visit a site, are assigned a unique identity and are then tracked based on this identity.  Start-ups like TapAd and AdStack are early users/brokers of the technology.

What’s interesting about this method is that counter to common logic, the more security or anti-spyware you upload, the more unique your identity becomes.  Our desktops and devices are becoming as individual as we are, like snowflakes.