In the digital age of internet-enabled technologies, online entities have many techniques to keep tabs on you. Third-party cookies are one of them, and people should be aware of them due to the constant cookie notifications they receive. However, browser (or device) fingerprinting is a less noticeable practice.
Browser fingerprinting is a technique that allows online entities to identify devices. Thus, certain information is collected to remember later. For instance, the method delivers your language, screen resolution, active plugins, IP address, and operating system. Hence, the more plugins your browser has, the easier it becomes to distinguish it. As a result, online entities can identify users’ devices and keep track of activities originating from them.
What is browser fingerprinting?
Browser fingerprinting is a surveillance technique used mostly by advertisers to track internet users online to find out more about their habits, activities, behavior, and everything else in between.
Advertisers can use this information to recommend products, websites, and services online, among many other things. On the web, data brokers, advertisers, and other similar organizations gather data on internet users by tracking their activities online.
They want to know what you do, what you buy, how you act, and what websites you frequent. While most of this tracking is simply to provide you with better product and service recommendations, it can become a threat to your privacy.
Contrary to popular belief, browser fingerprinting doesn’t rely on tracking cookies to work its magic. The purpose of cookies is to allow websites to remember essential things about internet users without using and maintaining an extensive database.
Cookies are nothing but simple text files stored on internet users’ computers rather than on the web. Each site you visit can enrich each cookie with pieces of information such as the sites you visit the most, things you like, your preferred address, and so much more.
Since modern websites contain much more than just text, they cooperate with other third-party sites and various advertisers by allowing them to save their cookies to internet users’ computers and internet-enabled devices.
While all this doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary, the problem is that these cookies now contain all available data on you and the sites that are hosting the ads. If a third party has a presence across multiple sites you visit, the cookies will link all those sites to your presence on them, exposing your online behavioral pattern.
Nowadays, trackers and advertisers have a wide range of new technologies such as Flash cookies, evercookies, supercookies, and more. While cookies place their information on your computer, browser fingerprinting doesn’t change anything on your devices. It simply uses your browser’s functions for its purposes.
How to prevent fingerprinting
There are a couple of security and privacy practices you can rely on to prevent browser fingerprinting. The following prevention techniques will make it harder for trackers and advertisers to track your activities online and find your personal information and web browsing history.
Use a browser that blocks fingerprinting
Luckily, there are browsers that you can use to evade fingerprinting. Tools like Brave and Mozilla Firefox do offer options to block this technique. You might need to check the browser you already use. It might also offer such protection. Furthermore, it might not be active by default. Thus, look through the settings to find out whether you can already disable it.
Chrome users have nothing to worry about as Chrome stopped using flash. Many trusted websites have stopped using flash, but countless sites still use flash to collect fingerprint data. You can either uninstall it or disable it to make sure you keep it from tracking your data.
Revisit plugins and extensions
You can make your browsing more enjoyable, convenient, and straightforward by using browser plugins and extensions, as they are great assets for providing deeper integrations to the services you visit every day.
However, they can also enable tracking of your activities. The more plugins and extensions you use, the more they make your browser fingerprint unique. Uninstall the plugins and extensions that you don’t use or need on a daily basis.
Check for software updates
Keeping all your software up to date isn’t only about preventing browser fingerprinting but protecting yourself from hacking attacks and cybercriminals. After all, programs and applications are never perfect. It takes years to fix all bugs and introduce other useful features.
Use a VPN
A VPN is an excellent way to boost your online privacy, security, and safety. It keeps you anonymous online by hiding and masking your physical location and IP address, and it uses encryption to protect your traffic additionally.
Top-rated VPN providers like Atlas VPN reroute your entire internet traffic through their third-party servers, protecting you and your data from ISPs, surveillance, malicious websites, and hackers. If you use a VPN in combination with private and secure browsers like the Mozilla Firefox browser, no one will be able to fingerprint you online.
Web trackers will always try to develop new and innovative ways to collect your private information. Fortunately, you have a wide range of methods to protect yourself and prevent them from tracking you online. For now, you have two main options – you can use a web service that prevents tracking online, or you can use a browser designed to foil fingerprinting. The choice is yours.