Mobile Fingerprinting Leaves Internet ‘Cookie’ Stigma Behind to Help Brands


The infamous ‘cookie’ digital code that is stored on a browser can now be easily disabled and many mobile phones don’t utilize them at all, leaving data seekers empty handed. Now, publishers and advertisers are turning to fingerprinting technology to track users’ online and mobile activities. 

“This technique allows a website to look at the characteristics of a computer such as what plugins and software you have installed, the size of the screen, the time zone, fonts and other features of any particular machine. These form a unique signature just like random skin patterns on a finger,” according to Forbes. 

1800Flowers is currently testing the technology. “We do use fingerprinting technology that can track when someone starts to buy flowers on a mobile device,” Will Ferguson, VP display advertising, social media and affiliate marketing told Mobile Commerce Daily. “It’s something we’re uber focused to figure out. I don’t think anyone has a completely comprehensive strategy.”[more]

Mobile browsing has unique challenges in managing consumer data including ‘application sandboxing’ that prevents sharing of data across iOS apps and further disables apps from reading data stored by Mobile Safari, launching a blank page in a technique called “the switch.” 

Fingerprinting, created for financial institutions to track consumer fraud, “correlates pieces of anonymous information, such as such as IP address, operating system and browser version, from a user’s device…is very accurate, [and] fingerprint profiles can not be deleted and can be tracked across multiple devices,” according to MCD.

The technology provides a big assist to brands looking to tap into native advertising. Start-up AdStack enables an advertiser using a plugin to generate code in a users email and serve the most relevant ads on an individual basis. Clients include online travel companies and retailers like Publishers Clearing House who pay between $1,000 and $50,000 depending on the number of emails sent. 

CEO Evan Reiser, who launched AdStack in 2011, told Forbes that fingerprinting successfully identifies 98 percent of Internet users. “We have data on at least tens of millions of people,” he said, acknowledging that, “There is a pretty fine line between cool and creepy…I think the tracking, in and of itself, is not good or bad. Really, it’s what the intent is. My philosophy is that if you can make content more relevant, make advertising more relevant it becomes less like spam and more like content.”

Still in a beta phase at 1800Flowers, Ferguson said they are waiting to see where Google and Facebook weigh in on the technology. “It’s a huge focus for our company to figure it out this year,” he said. “I think the industry is getting closer, so it’ll be interesting to watch.”

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