[AfrICANN-discuss] Web Browsers Leave 'Fingerprints' Behind as You Surf the Net

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Wed May 19 16:14:03 SAST 2010

  May 17th, 2010  http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2010/05/13 Web Browsers
Leave 'Fingerprints' Behind as You Surf the
Net<http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2010/05/13> EFF
Research Shows More Than 8 in 10 Browsers Have Unique, Trackable Signatures

San Francisco - New research by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has
found that an overwhelming majority of web browsers have unique signatures
-- creating identifiable "fingerprints" that could be used to track you as
you surf the Internet.

The findings were the result of an experiment EFF conducted with volunteers
who visited http://panopticlick.eff.org/. The website anonymously logged the
configuration and version information from each participant's operating
system, browser, and browser plug-ins -- information that websites routinely
access each time you visit -- and compared that information to a database of
configurations collected from almost a million other visitors. EFF found
that 84% of the configuration combinations were unique and identifiable,
creating unique and identifiable browser "fingerprints." Browsers with Adobe
Flash or Java plug-ins installed were 94% unique and trackable.

"We took measures to keep participants in our experiment anonymous, but most
sites don't do that," said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Peter Eckersley.
"In fact, 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."

EFF found that some browsers were less likely to contain unique
configurations, including those that block JavaScript, and some browser
plug-ins may be able to be configured to limit the information your browser
shares with the websites you visit. But overall, it is very difficult to
reconfigure your browser to make it less identifiable. The best solution for
web users may be to insist that new privacy protections be built into the
browsers themselves.

"Browser fingerprinting is a powerful technique, and fingerprints must be
considered alongside cookies and IP addresses when we discuss web privacy
and user trackability," said Eckersley. "We hope that browser developers
will work to reduce these privacy risks in future versions of their code."

EFF's paper on Panopticlick will be formally presented at the Privacy
Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS 2010) in Berlin in July.

For the full white paper: How Unique is Your Web Browser?:

For more details on Pantopticlick:

For more on online behavioral tracking:


Peter Eckersley
Senior Staff Technologist
Electronic Frontier Foundation
pde at eff.org

Related Issues: Online Behavioral
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