Cookies can be incredibly convenient. Remembering your settings, your passwords, and making your visits to websites a more personal experience. Yet, when they are used for marketing purposes based on your internet activity, they can leave you with the uncomfortable feeling that you are being watched.
On the other hand, cookies can be deactivated and cleaned from your computer; they don’t work on mobile phones and Apple products, so you can, to a certain extent, control this ‘cyber surveillance’.
Unfortunately, something immensely more powerful has been gaining ground as far as monitoring your internet history is concerned: fingerprinting. Marketers’ latest technology to identify and target customers online, there is very little you can do to avoid it, short of forsaking the internet altogether.
The principle is simple. Just like your physical fingerprints, all the settings, updates, software installed on your computer create a digital signature unique to you. Thanks to this, your web surfing can be tracked with great precision. Erasing cookies, changing your settings, nothing will help.
Quite the opposite, it will only contribute to refining your profile.
The benefits to anyone who has anything to sell are obvious. They can target potential customers very specifically depending on their internet history and interests; they can even devise email marketing campaigns which will not upload until the recipient actually opens the email, allowing the business involved greater flexibility.
Marketers who use this technology are prompt to outline the benefits to customers thus watched, namely that it improves the relevance of the ads they receive. Some might argue, though, that it is an invasion of privacy. Unfortunately, this is an area where the law hasn’t caught up yet, so it looks like fingerprinting is here to stay for a while.