Web advertisers, and other companies that profit on knowing as much as possible about you, such as google, use intricate techniques to identify and track you. Long time ago, life on internet was simple. You basically only had your IP that ‘connects’ to you, and even then it was imprecise because ISPs used dynamic ips or were doing NAT, so consequently thousands of people had the same IP.
Today, big companies that ARE profiting from knowing as much as possible about you are the ones making browsers. Before it was only Opera, but they were straight about it. Opera is a closed source, free browser, and you always had an ad from them in the upper right corner and you could expect some sort of tracking – that was it.
What is Browser Fingerprint and how does that work ?
This is the data that is visible to the web site after you open it:
- IP Address
- User Agent String – Browser version, OS version, language, toolbars installed, and some other info, looks like this: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-GB; rv:18.104.22.168) Gecko/20070725 Firefox/22.214.171.124
- HTTP Accept Headers
- Cookies Enabled?
- Screen Resolution
- Browser plugins, plugin versions and MIME types
- System Fonts
- Partial Supercookie Test
So combining all of these sources of info can effectively identify your browser, and consequently, you, with precision up to 95 %. Computers, especially the software aspect of it, is rather unique to a specific user.
Ad networks that are installed on millions, or in big advertising companies case, billions of websites, effectively use this information to uniquely identify you and track what you do on internet. Most of this data is for commercial purposes, but it’s available for “whatever” purposes, as there were reports that advertising companies are selling the data to others.
Every time you visit a site, the above information get passed to advertising networks. Google Analytics being the worst, as it’s most prevalent + they have access to youtube, google search, gmail, and other source of information. This data can then be analyzed and “map of movement”, patterns, can be created. To really understand the implications of this, combine the above collected information with your facebook uid, email address, phone number (there’s a reason EVERY major company want your phone number now, they say it’s for password recovery, but in reality it’s to link your internet profile to physical you – as you’re carrying the phone with you all the time) and you’ll see that “privacy” and “anonymity” do not exist anymore. That is – if you’re NOT using TOR, VPNs and you ARE using Facebook, Google and not blocking Google servers.
Another technique to fingerprint, but not just the browser, is canvas fingerprinting. Canvas fingerprinting is basically giving an image to the browser to render and seeing the results of each individual pixels rendered and making a hash value out of it. This gives a rather unique total fingerprint based on your software AND hardware in this case.
The end result ? Even if you delete your cookies, and use tools to ‘anonymize’ yourself, these websites can still re-identify you and re-inject tracking cookies. The only real solution as far as we can see it is to use TOR.
If you’re interested in mathematics on how this work, you can read this interesting article on Electronic Frontier Foundation website, called “A Primer on Information Theory and Privacy”.
If you do not want to be tracked in this manner, you can consider using TOR.
Check out our Free VPN. Also please consider donating. We’re donating bandwidth to TOR and we’re giving VPN for free, so if $10 bucks is not too much for you, consider making us happier and more motivated on continuing our service to Freedom, Privacy and Anonymity on internet.