What is browser fingerprinting and how does it work?


Browser fingerprinting is the process of third-party websites and platforms gathering enough information about you as a user that they can uniquely identify and trace you. This has serious implications for any business running multiple accounts online, and is a top reason for account bans. Read on to find out more about how browser fingerprinting works and what you can do to protect your accounts from bans and suspensions.

What is a browser fingerprint made up of?

There is an almost endless list of attributes that make up your fingerprint, and ever-more sophisticated developments mean it's only growing.

Imagine how many internet users there are out there and how many similarities they have: now imagine how in-depth you would need to look to find enough unique characteristics to be able to build up unique profiles for each one.

Browser fingerprinting is the process of third-party websites and platforms gathering enough information about you as a user that they can uniquely identify and trace you.

You may have heard browser fingerprinting compared to picking people out of a line-up. The common example says that you'd differentiate them by attributes like hair color or the one wearing red or the tall one. This doesn't give a true picture of how meticulously a fingerprint is built. imagine rather than it's a line-up entirely of people wearing red: you'd need to look more closely at granular details to build up enough data that can be combined into a workable profile.

So it is with your online browser fingerprint. Of course, elements like your geolocation, your hardware specs and your IP are included. But the level of detail means it'd be almost impossible to cover all bases, from fonts available on your system to screen resolution to your graphic system

Is my browser fingerprint unique?

It is unique enough to give a very slim chance your profile will run into its long-lost sibling: as we've previously discussed in our research, figures from Panopticlick show that only around 1 in 286,777 browser fingerprints will be the same.

Why does browser fingerprinting cause account bans?

As we wrote back in March in our blog on why platforms like Facebook Business ban accounts, these kinds of platforms and websites are always hunting in the background for anyone who is running multiple accounts – even for legitimate reasons.

Imagine you're running multiple Amazon or eBay storefronts for different brands within your e-commerce business, or you're an agency handling multiple clients' Google Ads accounts from the same devices.

If these are detected as coming from the same device or as being linked, they will in most cases automatically be flagged as suspicious and banned or suspended. And in many cases, it is your browser fingerprint that has helped their systems to link them together.

If your accounts are detected as linked, they will be automatically banned or suspended.

Does blocking browser fingerprinting work?

Your first reaction to the above is probably that the solution should therefore be to block browser fingerprinting.

Not so fast!

Blocking browser fingerprinting is in itself an obvious sign you are trying to hide, and will likely lead to your account being banned.

Blocking browser fingerprinting does not work!

How do I stop account bans if blocking fingerprinting doesn't work?

The best way to stop account bans is quite simply through segregated, unique profiles that allow Facebook, Google and so on to read your browser fingerprint.

Now, one way to do this would be from multiple devices: fine if you have two accounts, a lot more expensive, unreliable and impractical when you want to scale to 100, 1,000, 10,000...

The most reliable and easiest way to scale when stopping account bans is through virtual browser profiles. Through a tool like Multilogin, you can create completely native browser profiles – segregated from one another without leaking each other's fingerprint – from a single device. That way, websites can read your fingerprint as if they were a truly unique device without raising suspicions.

To find out more about how browser fingerprinting works in depth, and why attempting to block or spoof another device simply doesn't work, read our latest research article from our Cyber Security Researcher. And to learn more about Multilogin and how it can help protect your business when you're running multiple accounts, visit our use cases page.