stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Wed May 19 14:35:01 AEST 2010
A research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Is your browser configuration rare or unique? If so, web sites may be
able to track you, even if you limit or disable cookies.
Panopticlick tests your browser to see how unique it is based on the
information it will share with sites it visits. Click below and you will
be given a uniqueness score, letting you see how easily identifiable you
might be as you surf the web.
Only anonymous data will be collected by this site ..
Virtual fingerprinting exposes computer users
LOUISA HEARN May 19, 2010 - 1:29PM
A US privacy group has discovered the existence of a virtual fingerprint
that can be matched up with most computers to monitor the online habits
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, most web browsers carry
a unique signature that can help websites gather information about online
activities. Although this data does not directly identify you as a
person, it can be used to build a very detailed internet profile.
". . . several companies are already selling products that claim to use
browser fingerprinting to help websites identify users and their online
activities. This experiment is an important reality check, showing just
how powerful these tracking mechanisms are," said senior EFF technologist
Data privacy has emerged as one of the key public concerns this year with
market leading companies like Google and Facebook coming under fire for
making too much information about their subscribers publicly accessible.
Google dismayed many of its Gmail users in February by making their email
contacts public to other subscribers when it launched its new Buzz social
platform. Facebook has also recently angered users and privacy advocates
incorporate members' profile data.
While the spotlight has been on those companies pushing to reveal more
personal data in online platforms for their own marketing purposes, most
people assume their web browsing activities remain private.
The EFF, however, said it had confirmed the existence of the virtual
fingerprints by researching the activities of a number of volunteers who
visited a dedicated website it developed.
To conduct the research, the website anonymously logged information that
most websites would normally access when users visit, the EFF said.
After comparing a database collected from almost a million visitors, the
EFF discovered that 84 per cent of the configuration combinations were
unique and identifiable, and where browsers had Adobe Flash or Java plug-
ins installed they were 94 per cent identifiable.
Although the fingerprints can change regularly, simple algorithms were
able keep track of the virtual identity.
Eckersley said browser fingerprints are different to the information-
gathering cookies activated when people visit many websites and could be
used as a tracking mechanism against those who block cookies. He said
they may also prove much harder for investigators to trace because they
leave no evidence.
"Browser fingerprinting is a powerful technique, and fingerprints must be
considered alongside cookies and IP addresses when we discuss web privacy
and user trackability," Eckersley said.
More information about the Link