Who Left Open the Cookie Jar? A Comprehensive Evaluation of Third-Party Cookie Policies won the Distinguished Paper prize at this year's Usenix Security Conference; its authors, researchers at Belgium's Catholic University in Leuven, revealed a host of devastating, never-seen tracking techniques for identifying web-users who were using privacy tools supplied by browser-vendors and third-party tracking-blocking tools.
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Princeton computer science researchers Steven Englehardt and Arvind Narayanan (previously) have just published a new paper, Online tracking: A 1-million-site measurement and analysis, which documents the state of online tracking beyond mere cookies -- sneaky and often illegal techniques used to "fingerprint" your browsers and devices as you move from site to site, tracking you even when you explicitly demand not to be track and take countermeasures to prevent this. Read the rest
The ad-subsidized Web is at a crossroads: faced with pressure from social media platform, publishers are accepting ever-more-intrusive ads, which combine with the mounting public concern over privacy and tracking to encourage ad-blocking, which, in turn, makes publishers more desperate and more biddable to the darkest surveillance and pop-up desires of advertisers. Read the rest
A well-known software developer pulled his wildly successful ad-blocking utility just two days after releasing it on Apple's App Store. Marco Arment, who co-founded Tumblr and created Instapaper and Overcast, says he felt guilty about selling the ad-blocker, called Peace, because it "just doesn’t feel good."
Arment explained why he pulled the app in a post on his blog (which runs ads served by The Deck):
I still believe that ad blockers are necessary today, and I still think Ghostery is the best one, but I’ve learned over the last few crazy days that I don’t feel good making one and being the arbiter of what’s blocked.
Ad-blocking is a kind of war — a first-world, low-stakes, both-sides-are-fortunate-to-have-this-kind-of-problem war, but a war nonetheless, with damage hitting both sides. I see war in the Tao Te Ching sense: it should be avoided when possible; when that isn’t possible, war should be entered solemnly, not celebrated.
Even though I’m “winning”, I’ve enjoyed none of it. That’s why I’m withdrawing from the market.
He is giving refunds to everyone who purchased the app. Read the rest