BROWSER FINGERPRINTING

For some time, efforts have been going on to dissuade the use of browser fingerprinting thanks to the fraudulent practices it can corroborate. Tracking the users is still a cause of concern. The information of users is tracked under the assurance that it won’t be used for any other purposes. So far, there is no conclusive evidence that proves the veracity of this claim.

A browser fingerprinting is the ability of a website to identify or in some cases re-identify a visiting user through unique patterns of information gathered, while visiting the website. Another frustrating aspect of fingerprinting is that any measures taken to prevent tracking will make you more uniquely identifiable.

Although it enhances security on the Web, it also poses a threat to the users’ privacy. It can be leveraged to meet more malevolent ends. It often happens through the processes involved like gathering data on the browser configuration, the add-ons installed, the version information, the clock setting, screen resolution, time zone, language and font preferences, supported fonts, plugins and even hardware configurations. Apart from information gathered through browser the websites can run a Java script or Flash script to collect this information.

Browser fingerprinting is classified as active and passive. When a browser visits a website it automatically sends some data to the server which hosts the website. The data located in the protocol headers contains information regarding the clients’ computers like browser name or IP address. This is termed a passive browser fingerprinting. On the contrary, a website can also fetch additional data like fonts, plugins and more, which is termed as active browser fingerprinting. Passive fingerprints are always sent while browsing the web. The moot question is whether these data are being stored and used for any sort of identification purposes. Researches prove that more than 150 of the most popular websites are involved in active finger printing.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched a new online tracker-testing tool called Panopticlick. This tool will check the browser, its add-ons and assess the privacy protections that users have. The tool also gives remedial measures for under protected browsers. Even if you have any strong tracker blocking system installed on your system, you could still be identified by a Browser finger printing. Panopticlick also analyses the effectiveness of the browser to identify whether it is risk free.

Browser finger printing provides privacy concerns to many! It is indeed surprising that an online visitor can manipulate visits to a single site or to different sites so as to develop a profile based on the web history of the user!! Most often, users may not be aware of the same and clearing cookies alone can hardly solve this!

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