Device fingerprinting

Device fingerprinting: what tracking of our online activities is, and how does it work

The device fingerprinting technology allows us to track our online activities: it is therefore increasingly used by companies in the advertising sector to collect large amounts of valuable data for marketing purposes. So let’s figure out how it works and how to protect our privacy.

There are many systems for tracking user activity on the Web. Still, in recent times, attention has been focusing above all on the data collected and shared through browser fingerprinting, which is an incredibly accurate method for identifying unique browsers and tracking online activities.

While we protect our data from being tracked online, the advertising technology industry will use increasingly sophisticated techniques to track our digital activities.

Browser fingerprinting: what is it for

Given the massive adoption of ad-blockers by many users and very stringent policies on cookies, advertisers have had the “need” to adopt new methods to collect information on devices and to identify users. This means that, when connecting to the internet from a laptop or smartphone, the device will send a series of specific data to the receiving server on the websites visited, with the aim of collecting information on the type and version of the browser, as well as on the operating system, active plug-ins, time zone, language, screen resolution, and various other active settings. Once the characteristics of the device are known, the data can be assembled into a profile that helps identify the habits of Internet users, as a device fingerprint would.

Websites collect a large set of visitor data in bulk for later use to compare it with the browser fingerprints of known users. All this information does not necessarily reveal information about the name or home address, but it is incredibly useful for advertising purposes since many companies can use it to target advertisements to certain groups. These groups are created precisely through matching browser fingerprinting.

It is natural, at this point, to wonder why this is done and why data is so valuable to them. On the international level, advertising industry and marketing machines love data and are ready to do anything to get their hands on it and track online activity. Data tracking is extremely valuable because it allow advertising companies to create user profiling. The more data provided to these companies, the more they can target targeted advertising, which (indirectly) means more revenue for the company.

Browser fingerprinting: methods used 

Browser fingerprinting also has its positive aspects. In fact, it is used to identify the characteristics of botnets, as connections are established each time from a different device. This analysis could lead to identifying scammers and other suspicious activities that require investigation.

Additionally, banks use this method to identify potential fraud cases. For example, if an account exhibits questionable online behavior, a security system is able to identify that the account is accessible from multiple different locations during a short period of time by analyzing unique device fingerprints. In this way, a hacker who has logged into the account using a device that had never logged into the account before could potentially be identified.

Websites, as already mentioned, use different methods to track users on the internet. In doing so, they can collect browser information and device fingerprints. The technology allows websites to interact with the browser and retrieve information.

Image by Kris from Pixabay

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