What is

What is Browser Fingerprinting?

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.

Option number two is client-side collection. On top of everything above, this method collects available fonts, installed plugins, system language, screen resolution, and so forth. Even when using a browser such as Brave, there is still plenty of data being “broadcasted” without anyone knowing. Both JavaScript and Adobe Flash can be thanked for sharing these crucial details.

Stopping Browser Fingerprinting in its Tracks

There is no “one-stop solution” to put an end to browser fingerprinting. It requires a collection of tools to achieve privacy on the internet these days. Disabling Javascript, cookies, and webRTC requests is one option. This will also render a lot of web pages completely useless in the process, but that is somewhat to be expected. As such, it may not be the ideal solution for most users.

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. 

 


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JP Buntinx

JP Buntinx has been writing about cryptocurrency since 2012. His interest in crypto, blockchain, fintech, and finance allows him to cover a broad range of different topics.

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