Achieving privacy when surfing the web is nearly a futile effort. So many tracking techniques are being used, some more hidden than others. Browser fingerprinting, for example, is a very serious threat, even though it is invisible to the naked eye.
Browser Fingerprinting Explained
Most people are well aware of browser cookies and how they can be used – and abused – by third-party advertisers. It has been a very problematic endeavor that only grows worse over time. Unfortunately, cookies are virtually harmless compared to browser fingerprinting. Sometimes, it is better to deal with the lesser of two evils.
For law enforcement, solutions such as browser fingerprinting are crucial. It allows for harvesting as much browser-related information as possible through ordinary-looking websites. In fact, the average user will not see anything wrong with these web pages. It requires special tools to determine whether or not a web page is safe from tracking users through this method.
Using this information gives law enforcement officials a way to compare data. More specifically, humans cannot differentiate their online behavior if they have a criminal identity on the web. As such, it can become possible to identify Tor users, darknet vendors, and so forth. A very shady solution, but one that appears perfectly legal.
While the browser fingerprint g data does not reveal user identities directly, it creates a viable data set to be used. This method does collect IP addresses, but those aren’t always useful. Instead, it is necessary to build “profiles” associated with internet users. In a way, this is modern-era profiling on a large scale.
How Does it Work?
Several ways of browser fingerprinting can be used. The most obvious option is to choose for server-side collection. Through this option, information such as the URL, requesting IP address, referrer, and user agent string can be obtained. This information itself is not too useful, but it can help build profiles over time.
It is also worth noting web servers can be configured to collect more data. Through log format specifiers, a whole set of data can be recorded. This method is akin to how cookies work, but used for entirely different purposes.
Stopping Browser Fingerprinting in its Tracks
Some people may be inclined to think that a VPN will help. Sadly, it will not. VPNs are designed to help mask a user’s IP address and locations. It does nothing to prevent all other information being shared through browser fingerprinting. That doesn’t mean no one should use a VPN, but it is crucial to understand the difference.
Other options to reduce the impact of this technique include never reusing email addresses, usernames, and so forth. Additionally, staying off social media is the logical next step. Some would even go as far as using different computers to prevent inadvertent data leakage. All of these solutions are viable, but not for the everyday user.