May 27, 2017

Digital Privacy: Now Sites Can Fingerprint You Online Even When You Use Multiple Browsers

From ars technica:

Researchers have recently developed the first reliable technique for websites to track visitors even when they use two or more different browsers. This shatters a key defense against sites that identify visitors based on the digital fingerprint their browsers leave behind.

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The new tracking technique relies on JavaScript code that’s compact enough to run quickly in the background while visitors are focused on a specific task, such as reading text or viewing video. The researchers have launched this website to demonstrate the techniques and have released the corresponding source code here. In a test that collected 3,615 fingerprints from 1,903 users over a three-month period, the technique was able to successfully identify 99.2 percent of users. By contrast, a single-browser fingerprinting technique dubbed AmIUnique, had a success rate of 90.8 percent.

Fortunately, cross-browser tracking doesn’t work against people using the default installation of the Tor browser. Still, many people tweak their installations of Tor so that it supports certain WebGL graphics capabilities required by gaming sites or other online destinations. While those tweaks may make the Tor browser more usable, they may also make it less immune to the fingerprinting techniques. Cao said he’s not aware of any sites using cross-browser fingerprinting.

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Learn More

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Publishes New Report on Cross-Device Tracking (Jan. 23, 2016)

Novel Technique Tracks More Web Users Across Browsers (Feb. 13, 2016; via Lehigh University)

and

Research Paper: (Cross-)Browser Fingerprinting via OS and Hardware Level Features)

Digital Privacy: It’s Not Just About Cookies Anymore (Feb. 2, 2017)

“Your ‘Anonymized’ Web Browsing History May Not Be Anonymous (Feb. 1, 2016)

“Online Tracking: A 1-Million-Site Measurement and Analysis” (May 23, 2016)

New Research/Report Provides “Archaeological Study” About Use of Third-Party Tracking Technology on the Web (August 24, 2016)

Privacy and Data Leaks: “Location Data on Two Apps Enough to Identify Someone, Says Study” (April 15, 2016)

Conference Paper: “Cookies That Give You Away: The Surveillance Implications of Web Tracking” (June 6, 2015)

Online Privacy: How a Button Found on Many Web Pages Might Be Very Hazardous to Your Online Privacy (July 22, 2014)

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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