Browser fingerprinting is a relatively new term but it’s already taking the Internet by storm and more and more online users are now eager to know what it is, what it does and what they need to know about it. If you just so happened to be one of the countless online users who still hasn’t heard about it, do not worry. You’re not alone.
Simply put, browser fingerprinting is an immensely precise and accurate method of tracking online user activity by identifying browser activity on the Internet. Everything you do leaves your “fingerprints” all over the net which can be traced back to you. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry as there’s more than one way to wipe off your fingerprints.
What Is Browser Fingerprinting?
Browser fingerprinting allows these websites to track any online activity despite the fact that cookies are off.
Basically, each time you use your smartphone or laptop to connect to the Internet, the receiving server will receive specific data from your device about your online activity.
It’s an extremely powerful method of collecting information about online users such as screen resolution, language, time zone, active plug-ins, operating system, type and version of the browser you’re using, as well as a wide variety of active settings.
Browser Fingerprinting and Advertisement
Websites use this method to track the online behavior of unique users. Firstly, they identify and then they track. This process is what is known as browser fingerprinting. Just like the police are using fingerprints to identify criminals and suspects, browser fingerprinting works in the same way. Each browser’s information is completely unique and there’s a very small chance of having two identical browser fingerprints.
Just like real fingerprints where no two fingerprints are the same, browser fingerprinting works in the same way. Websites use it for their advertising purposes to target the right audiences. Marketing machines and the worldwide advertising industry just love your personal data and they need your online activities to advertise their products based on what you do online.
Data collection and tracking methods are extremely important because it is what helps companies profile you based on your online preferences. The more they know about you as an online user, the easier it will be for them to target you with proper advertisements with the main goal of increasing their revenues.
There are several different tracking methods that websites use to track the activity of online users on the Internet. Thanks to the latest and most innovative technologies, websites retrieve information by interacting with the browser you use to access the Internet.
So, by loading the cookies onto your computer, websites can track your devices and computers to analyze your online behavior and activity. When you enter a website for the first time, it downloads cookies.
When you visit again, it assesses that data in order to provide a customized and personalized user experience to match your preference. Cookies store data about your browsing interests, habits, and activities among many other things.
Your IP Address vs. Browser Fingerprinting
If you are an online user who likes their privacy, you’ll be happy to know that there are ways to hide your online activity and identity. The best method is by covering data such as your IP address. Each IP address protocol allows a receiving web server to access your IP address in order to deliver a response.
So, that means that every time you interact with any online service or website, this server receives your request in order to provide you with the wanted online results. Your IP address is what points to the device from which the request was sent.
Given this protocol, tech-savvy companies can track your geo-location, the account you use to log in and every other online activity you perform. Fortunately, you can now test your browser identity with very useful tools such as Panopticlick. These tools can help you to determine how unique your data is. Among many things, you can test if your browser is:
● Blocking tracking ads.
● Blocking invisible trackers.
● Blocking Whitelisted trackers.
● Unblocking only those websites that honor ”Do Not Track”.
● Having proper protection against browser fingerprinting.
What to Do Against Browser Fingerprinting
While full protection against this kind of tracking isn’t possible, there are a few extremely useful tools that can help you avoid browser identification while enhancing your online privacy. The most effective methods of protecting yourself are:
• Use a privacy-minded, yet reasonably common browser. Firefox is a good bet here, but some other browsers such as Brave browser feature even better privacy capabilities and have strong fingerprint blocking enabled by default. Try not to choose an extremely rare and brand new browser because that might make your fingerprint more likely to be unique. Tor browser is also a good bet, but make sure that it’s the default version of Tor and don’t customize it.
• Don’t use any browser extensions, and stick to a few very common extensions if you must. Each additional extension, especially if it’s not widely used, increases your chance of being unique.
• Clamp down on metadata you can control. Disallow your browser from sending out anything that you can live without, such as your microphone and camera status or your time zone, and disable WebGL. Use a common screen size and resolution if possible.
• Run your browser in a virtual machine. This will obscure your true browser. If you don’t mind tinkering with the virtual machine’s settings, you can even set it up with different settings every time to create an extra layer of protection. Not to mention that you can also use it to chain multiple VPNs together!
While essentially, browser fingerprinting won’t endanger your privacy and personal data while being online, it will make you handle a lot of personalized ads that might become annoying at some point. By applying the aforementioned methods, you can defend yourself against it very efficiently and enjoy a more personalized browser and user experience without any fear of being tracked.