The internet is a place of gross moral abuse of privacy, and we all are aware of that. The hype on tracking cookies and IP addresses has long since invaded the internet, and people have started to arm up against it. However, browser fingerprinting is still a term mostly unknown to most people!
Now, as per menial information, if you are somewhat concerned about privacy, you might have a secure VPN connection. You may also be skeptical of sharing information online and might use “safe browsing” methods.
Albeit, these surely are significant initiatives to ensure privacy. However, tactical browser fingerprinting somewhat renders it all somewhat useless!
Surprised? The question arises, what is browser fingerprinting anyway?
The simplistic answer is that browser fingerprinting is a method of tracking online activity. It goes on by collecting certain information about your device’s operating system, settings, and hardware.
This information is then pieced together to create a distinctive digital fingerprint that can later be out to use in tracking and identification of individuals.
Just like every other tracking tool, governments and corporate entities exploit browser fingerprinting for their use. While advertisers find it useful in gathering data on their users and creating more persuasive marketing, governments use it to monitor people.
Albeit it may not seem this way, browser fingerprinting is not always nefarious. It is useful in identifying frauds on dating websites or online banking websites.
How Browser Fingerprinting occurs?
This information comprises of things such as:
- What OS the user’s device has
- Time zone of the user’s location
- Plugins present in the user’s browser
- The choice browser of the user.
Can we test for browser fingerprinting?
Discovering if you are being tracked online without your consent is, thankfully, still a fundamental human right. Therefore several online “test” websites are available that allow users to see if they are a victim of browser fingerprinting or not.
However, one of the most popular tools, as recommended by Electronic Frontier’s Foundation (EFF), is Panopticlick3.0. The tool offers secure methods of distinguishing browser fingerprinting.
All you need to do is click on “TEST ME,” and within a few seconds, it tells if there are any privacy risks or not.
How to combat browser fingerprinting
Browser fingerprinting, although exceedingly common, has by far no dedicated tools of blocking it. However, there are few methods available that can help maneuver around it, and allow browsing anonymously. Some of which are as follows:
Meanwhile, disabling Flash also proves to be an effective method of getting rid of browser fingerprinting. Specifically, as disabling, it has no negative experiences on browsing experience whatsoever.
However, that is only until you are not visiting old sites. In that case, old sites require the use of Flash to load up properly so you might have some trouble with them.
2.Use safe browser + VPN
Safe browsers are designed to provide safety online. They are tools that have features that explicitly prevent websites from online tracking by blocking cookies, ad pop-ups, and other tools designed for tracking.
Additionally, VPN providers are also great tools of anonymity as they mask IP addresses and change the location of the user. Therefore a combination of safe browsers and the right VPN provider that follows a strict no-logs policy can help ward off browser fingerprinting.
3.Use Tor + VPN
If you are incredibly conscious of your privacy and security online, using the tor network for browsing is a good option. A project of the US navy, Tor, is designed to provide ultimate anonymity and security. Additionally, the latest updates in the Tor browser also protect browser fingerprinting.
However, Tor evidently has its flaws. More so, as information after the last node, goes on uncorrected for anyone to snoop on. Also, using Tor means ISP throttling and, therefore, slow speeds.
So, to cancel these things out, using Tor with a VPN connection is a great solution. Not only does it masks tor activity from the ISP, but it also encrypts data and protects it from snoopers and trackers.
There are quite a several browsers available such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that allow you to go incognito. For this, they have a private browsing mode that puts in some privacy measures to ensure online privacy.
These privacy measures set your online profile to a certain “set in stone” standard data points. Most of these data points are what make up your digital fingerprint.
Therefore, with a bunch of people leaving behind “similar” fingerprints, it is hard to identify individual profiles. Advertently this method provides a great initiative in reducing browser fingerprinting significantly.
5.Use security plugins
Most browsers, such as Firefox and Chrome, allow the use of security plugins. These plugins are designed to provide security online by preventing website tracking.
Most of these plugins, such as AdBlock Plus, Privacy Badger, and NoScript, are handy to gain online security and anonymity. These plugins block scripts that websites, ISPs and other entities use to spy on users, such as spying ads and invisible trackers.
With some websites, this may hinder user experience. However, if these are trustworthy sites, users have the liberty of whitelisting them and go on without any blocking.
Although privacy over the internet seems like a hopeless aspect, however, digging into it reveals several convincing alternatives. Following some privacy, measures can help stay secure and enable privacy online.