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A New EFF Tool Fights Even Presidential Spam 

Tuesday, Jul 29 2014
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Privacy experts recently discovered something peculiar while scouring the White House's official website, WhiteHouse.gov. Evidently, it's equipped with a potent tracking mechanism — the "canvass fingerprinting super cookie" — which assigns a unique "fingerprint" to each computer it encounters. The fingerprint helps determine which ads to display to a user as he's browsing other sites.

Anyone who visits the White House privacy policy page gets shadowed by one of these super cookie trackers.

"It's amazing," says Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

About a year ago, Eckersley and other EFF staff began building their own shield, a browser extension for Firefox and Chrome that detects online ads and embedded widgets that trail people without their permission. Called Privacy Badger, it's one of the few tools that allows users to read the president's privacy policy without being tracked.

Eckersley says that spammers are getting ever-craftier in their race to outwit privacy features, but so far the Badger hasn't found any it couldn't beat. The EFF staff has made the software code public, so that any hacker can make it better.

Still, he says, it's going to be a cat-and-mouse game. "Or a badger-and-mouse game, if you will."

About The Author

Rachel Swan

Rachel Swan

Bio:
Rachel Swan was a staff writer at SF Weekly from 2013 to 2015. In previous lives she was a music editor, IP hack, and tutor of Cal athletes.

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