Deactivating AddThis

I’ve been using a couple of AddThis plugins on this site recently, in an effort to make it easier for folks to share things that they find interesting on the site, or to encourage folks to share or like the Facebook page, etc.

Tonight, however, I’m deactivating AddThis on the site. The reason? This article about tracking web visitors using canvas fingerprinting.

Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.

“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.

Harris said the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.”

He added that the company has only used the data collected from canvas fingerprints for internal research and development. The company won’t use the data for ad targeting or personalization if users install the AddThis opt-out cookie on their computers, he said.

Arvind Narayanan, the computer science professor who led the Princeton research team, countered that forcing users to take AddThis at its word about how their data will be used, is “not the best privacy assurance.”

Look, I’m not particularly interested in tracking my readers. I am interested in having easy ways to help you spread the word about my sites, but there are plenty of other ways to do that. It’s not worth alienating those of you with privacy concerns, especially when I fall into that category myself!

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