We are all aware that websites have the ability to track and identify their visitors. The most common ways to do so are with cookie files or by finding the IP address that is being used. However, these common methods can be easily bypassed as users can block or delete cookies and mask their IP address.
This is why browser fingerprinting was developed. Browser fingerprinting is the process of gathering information about a user through their browser in order to deduce their identity. The reason why browser fingerprinting is so dangerous is that it’s much harder to prevent than other forms of online tracking.
Because of this, we’ve put together an article to help you understand browser fingerprinting, why it’s dangerous, and what the only two effective ways of fighting it are.
What Enables Websites to Track Your Identity?
Websites are able to collect your information and fingerprint your browser without you ever knowing, but how exactly do they do it?
The answer lies behind the technology that websites employ, and how they interact with your browser. But, before going into that, let’s think about the information you need in order to identify an individual.
If we collect a single piece of information about a person, such as a gender, date of birth, or zip code, it’s not enough to find out their identity. However, if we have all three, it’s much easier to single out that person and accurately deduce their identity.
Websites that actively fingerprint your browser operate under the same concept. Your browser reveals numerous details about your identity that mean nothing individually, like the list-plugins you use, your list of system fonts, OS version, screen resolution, etc. When collected together, this same information can accurately determine your identity.
First Generation Methods to Combat Browser Fingerprinting
Browser fingerprinting is very effective because it uses almost every single piece of information available to accurately identify you.
There are browsers that specialize in letting you navigate the internet add-on free. For this example, we will use the Tor Browser, but there are other options available depending on your specific requirements. Tor Browser disables potentially dangerous browser components and allows you to browse the internet safely through its layered encrypted connection.
Tor Browser is Awesome, but…
Think about it this way: in one hand you have a smartphone, and in the other, you have an outdated dial-pad phone that is worthy of a ‘90s sitcom, and you have to choose one to use on daily basis.
Because of its many capabilities, smartphones are way easier to track than basic phones. Mobile applications can access a smartphone’s exact location through its GPS feature, as well as saved pictures, message history, and other pieces of information. These can then be used to find out exact details and identify the person using the smartphone.
Older dial-pad phones have very limited usability, and their lack of features make it really hard to identify the owner. The older phone can’t monitor you, or at least not on such a grand scale, so it provides the safest alternative.
In an ideal world, most people would choose the safest option. However, because we live in an experience-driven world, most people would choose the smartphone even if they know it’s much easier to fingerprint.
So, what should you do in this case?
Combating Browser Fingerprinting by Actively Managing Your Browser’s Fingerprint
Although safekeeping your identity should be very high on everyone’s list, there are some scenarios and situations where you can’t afford to browse the internet with diminished usability.
In these cases, you can always turn to browser identity management and automation platforms to help you browse the internet while still protecting your identity. These platforms allow you to combat browser fingerprinting while maintaining full browser experiences.
Instead of disabling add-ons and plugins, browser identity management platforms actively mask all the information that can be used to deduce your identity. This is achieved by creating numerous online profiles you can then use to access websites.
At the same time, browser identity management platforms deploy numerous counter-fingerprinting technologies that prevent these sites from connecting multiple accounts that belong to the same user. Although websites will be able to fingerprint these profiles, they will not be able to link them to you or to one another.
In other words, you can create and manage each profile and choose which one to use every time you enter a website, which leads us to our next point…
Choosing the Best Way to Combat Browser Fingerprinting for You
Both Tor Browser and browser identity management platforms offer great alternatives to fighting browser fingerprinting, but there are significant differences between the two.
Tor Browser masks the parameters that identify you, but you will still have the same static parameters every time you connect to the internet. In other words, if you connect 50 times in a day, you will have 50 connections that look the same, with exception of their IP address. Furthermore, your connection will look exactly the same as the connection of thousands of other Tor Browser users.
This can set off temporary blocks on accounts and other restrictions, sometimes resulting in major setbacks.
That being said, Tor Browser can be a great tool for certain industries in specific scenarios, such as:
- Journalism: Journalism often requires researching for sensitive information. These search terms can trigger government agency red flags, which can pose a huge inconvenience. To avoid this, journalists can access the information they need without worrying about being contacted or questioned by authorities.
- Law Enforcement: Law enforcers often access open source databases online, and may need to remain anonymous in order to avoid leaving any evidence of an ongoing investigation.
- Independent and Alternative News Channels: Independent news channels can often be targeted for exposing injustices, so they need to maintain high levels of online privacy to avoid any repercussions.
On the other hand, browser identity management platforms provide a great solution if you need to connect with a specific identity each time you access a website.
Because browser identity management platforms create a number of unique identities, you can choose which one you want to use each time you connect to any particular website. All parameters used to fingerprint your device are masked each time you access a website, safeguarding your identity and allowing full browser functionalities.
Some common uses for browser identity management platforms include:
- Online Marketing: Marketers often have to sign into many social media accounts with multiple logins several times in a day to manage their clients’ accounts. With browser identity management software, marketers can create different unique identities that can then be used to access social media and other popular platforms simultaneously.
- Web Application Testing: Web application developers need to test websites and apps through multiple browsers and different configurations. Logging in with multiple identities helps them by emulating users and providing valuable feedback to help during product development and testing.
- Corporate Intelligence: Companies can use multiple identities to reverse-engineer their competitor’s ads targeting strategy in order to gain valuable insights to their sales and marketing schemes.
Use Multiple Identities to Navigate the Web with Multiloginapp
We developed Multilogin in order to balance off the need for more effective methods to fight browser fingerprinting. Multilogin protects your identity from browser fingerprinting and other forms of web tracking while still allowing you to have a full browsing experience.
The beauty of Multilogin is that it takes into account all parameters that web trackers use to fingerprint your devices, and creates unique values for each one of them in order to create numerous unique identities. You can choose which identity you want to use to browse specific sites, keeping your real identity safe and maintaining full browsing functionality.
These unique identities can be tracked and fingerprinted individually, but they will not be linked with each other or your own real identity. Multilogin allows you to fool web trackers in order to complete specific tasks, and navigate the web without diminished usability.
With browser fingerprinting technology evolving at a fast pace, keeping your identity safe is more important than ever before. Use one of the approaches outlined above to prevent browser fingerprinting and safeguard your identity.