When you browse through the internet, you leave a trace of your activity everywhere you go. You are wondering how is that possible? Short answer is that data is everywhere. Everytime you access a website you are collecting data from it, but at the same time that website is collecting data about you. This has been done through cookies in the past, but recently new technology called browser fingerprinting is taking the throne.
What is browser fingerprinting?
Browser fingerprinting is a process of extracting data from browsers in order to get more information about the user. This can be anything from the type of your browser and its version, IP address, operating system, any active plugins, your time and language setting and many more different settings. Possibilities are endless.
Even though this data seems too generic to be able to identify one specific person, you need to stop thinking about them as separate data but like a collection. When you put them all together, the chance of finding another user with all the same data is extremely small. Actually, according to a research conducted by Electronic Frontier Foundation, the chance is that one in 286,777 browsers will have the same browser fingerprint for another user, and chances are getting even smaller as the technology advances. Just as all of the lines, swirls and bumps on your finger create your unique fingerprint, that is how all these different settings create a unique browser fingerprint.
Browser fingerprinting is most commonly used for advertising as it helps them to create a profile based on that data and use it for targeted advertising and to identify loyal customers. Recently companies have also started using it in the area of cybersecurity as it can help identify suspicious activities like account takeovers or identity thefts and stop them before they can do any damage
How to prevent browser fingerprinting
While the cookies are also used to track information about you, it is easy enough to stop them, just by allowing certain cookies you can take back the control of your online privacy. But when it comes to browser fingerprinting, there is only one foolproof way to stop it completely and that is to stop using the internet at all. Luckily you won’t have to do that as there are some methods you can use to mitigate it.
1. Remove extensions and plugins
Browser extensions and plugins are making browser fingerprinting easier as they are what makes your browser unique. You are choosing them for your needs and requirements and the more of them you have, your browser fingerprint will be more unique. Just imagine how difficult it would be to find someone else who has all the same extensions and plugins as you do? Remove the plugins that you don’t use and try to replace the ones you use with standalone desktop apps and make yourself less unique.
Additionally, you can instal plugins that disable trackers like AdBlock Plus, Privacy Badger, or Disconnect. When using these plugins, you need to be aware that this can impact your user experience on some of the websites, but most of them have the option of whitelisting the websites you trust.
2. Use Private mode
Most of the browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Edge and Safari, and Firefox have an incognito or private mode. By using it you can minimize the amount of information you share when you are browsing as it makes your browser more standard and similar to other users which significantly reduces the success of fingerprinting.
3. Use a VPN
VPN or a Virtual Private Network, but it is an indispensable tool when it comes to protecting your privacy. It works by connecting you through a third-party server instead of connecting to a web server directly which hides your Ip address and physical location from the web server. Think about VPN as a middle man whose duty is to protect your privacy in addition to improving your online security.
4. Use Tor
To take the protection of your privacy to the next level, use Tor browser which has anti-fingerprinting features, like hiding the information about your operating system or blocking revealing the time zone and language settings. Without this information it will be hard to fingerprint your browser, as it won’t have enough relevant information.
Browser fingerprinting relies on the uniqueness of each user to create their profile, but what all of these methods do is make you less unique and more similar to other users, making it harder to identify you. It might not be able to stop it completely, but it will reduce its success.