What is it: ETags are similar to self-regenerating, Flash-based “zombie” cookies that helped spark a nationwide debate on privacy recently. They are the nearly indestructible data files that re-spawn on consumers’ computers or tablets, even after users choose to “delete all cookies.” Often, flash cookies and ETags work together like partners in crime, collecting duplicate data pools and assuring that tracking processes are housed in multiple locations on a device. One major distinction between Flash cookies and ETags is that ETags are a native part of HTTP, the core protocol of all Web services. ETags can pass information about a device to a website and then simply re-issue after any subsequent requests are sent to the Web from the same device after cookies are deleted. This allows tracking to renew incessantly. ETags also operate using HTML5 to facilitate local data storage. This allows them to regenerate easily on mobile devices like tablets and hold huge amounts of granular data, without the cross-platform restrictions posed by the use of Flash cookies.
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