Computing

What is Digital Fingerprints (1)

Submitted by Celine Yun, , Thread ID: 228422

Celine Yun
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14-12-2021, 10:52 AM
This post was last modified: 14-12-2021, 11:33 AM by Celine Yun
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Have you ever encountered the annoying situation that after you browse a kind of product online, then you receive so much advertising of related products in the following days. Or receive several promotional emails after you buy a product online. You might be curious about how they could know what I browsed or what I bought? Here, it’s necessary for you to know the phrase – digital fingerprint and learn how to get rid of these annoying things.


What is Digital Fingerprints

A digital fingerprint is a unique digital identifier. A remote site or service gathers little bits of information about a user's machine, and puts those pieces together to form a set of data that identifies our browser setup and device as unique. There are two main forms:
  • Browser fingerprinting: information is delivered through the browser when a user visits remote sites
  • Device fingerprinting: information is delivered through apps a user has installed on their device
Once our browser and/or device is analysed, it’s difficult or even impossible to get rid of it. Internet users will be identified and tracked, even when they take evasive measures against cookies. These identifiers mainly relate to our browser and device, but can be used to pry into our personal data and internet browsing habits. That’s the reason for the situation that I mentioned at the beginning.


What’s the differences between Digital Fingerprints and cookies

Digital fingerprints are not the same thing as  cookies, however they serve a similar purpose to cookies. 

Cookies or HTTP cookies are stored in the web browser itself and were initially designed to store information about the content and state of websites for retrieval.

Cookies can be either first or third-party. First-party cookies are downloaded to your browser from the site itself, e.g. to save your login details for when you next log into the site – seems reasonable enough.

But third-party cookies are downloaded to your browser from many other sites or ‘parties’. Advertisers, retargeting, analytics and tracking services use third-party cookies to track additional off-site behaviours. A website can use a variety of different third-party tracking cookies that collect your information. That information collected by cookies includes your browsing habits, device information and location.

Cookies are pretty easy to control on the user side. We have control of them and can shut them down easily if we wish. However, digital fingerprints are a much more tough nut to crack. There are four features of digital fingerprints:
  • Data fingerprinting helps target ads and services without cookies 
  • More reliable for cross-device tracking
  • Circuments typical security tools like adblockers
  • Not controlled by the end-user, tough to switch off
As we can see, digital fingerprints were developed largely as a more intensive, robust alternative to cookies. Fingerprinting creates a new persistent identifier that is out of our control, we can’t see it, we can’t shut it down or we can’t kick it out of our device. It uses your browser or device characteristics against you, since the identifier is a summary of all the characteristics of your browser or device. 

Fingerprinting is done extensively by tracking companies, who use this information to target users with ads or sell that information to data brokers. Digital advertising is a business worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Retargeting, or recognizing a return visitor and marketing materials based on their previous browsing, is a powerful way for marketers to increase click-through rates and generate revenue.

In short, fingerprinting exists to circumvent the normal controls users have that enable them to control their own browsers. In order to take control of our browsers and devices back, we have to use special tools that resist fingerprinting.


In the next article, I will give a brief introduction of how to protect yourself from digital fingerprints. Stay tuned!

RE: What is Digital Fingerprints (1)

rocodemario
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16-12-2021, 10:16 AM
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