Summary: Digital fingerprinting is an impressive technological invention of modern computer science. But, today, this invention is used for harmful purposes. Digital fingerprints are either collected via the browser or the device you are using. The purpose behind it is to track the users’ online behavior and risk their online privacy. The data collected through digital fingerprinting helps advertisers and marketers in making greater profits.
It poses a great threat to users’ digital privacy. Thus, steps like using data encryption like VPN and putting small changes on your daily browsing habits will hide digital fingerprinting.
Digital fingerprinting is a two-way sword. It is an impressive technology that proves to be a great success in modern computer science. But, it also outlines a force of technology used for sinister motives. It has now become a big issue in recent years as your internet privacy is falling through the gaps of a complex online environment.
The most important question is how digital fingerprinting technology can risk your internet privacy?
Have you ever thought about the digital footprints that you leave while browsing through social media feeds? As long as we enjoy scrolling through various websites, webpages, and various social media apps- we leave our digital shadow. The tracks reveal our likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, preferences, and other details.
To the shock of the uninformed users, the device and browser we use for our browsing session work 24/7 hours to gather information about us. The information includes every little detail about us. Even from our location to the device we are using to the last place we visited and where we checked in for lunch.
To get a better understanding of digital fingerprinting and how to hide it, keep reading this article.
Why There’s a Need to Hide Digital Fingerprinting?
Digital fingerprinting is a process through which a service or a site collects every detail about the users’ online behavior. All the information is used to spy and track the users’ data and browsing activities. The worst thing is that they don’t know about it and can’t do anything to get rid of it.
There are two types of digital fingerprinting. One is browser fingerprinting and the other one is device fingerprinting.
Whenever you browse through the internet, information about the browser you use, websites, and web pages you visit is stored for a better user experience and this is called browser fingerprinting. In other words, it is the tool to detect and track people as they browse through the web. The data is used for web tracking which is a way to track people by using cookies and requires user consent.
Besides web tracking, the companies use the collected data to advertise and personalize your online experience. It is a useful technique for advertisers and marketers to generate more revenue. Have you ever thought for a second that how come you start viewing ads about a product that you searched for last week? It’s because of your digital footprints. Your browser stored that information and later it’s used for advertising.
Being bombarded with personalized ads is not a big deal. But the information collected in bulk because of browser fingerprinting has the potential to cause some other serious issues. The browser collects more of your sensitive data than you ever imagined.
For example, if you searched about credit card security, the information becomes a part of your search history and is included in the data that is sold to the advertisers. It means that when your information is sold to the security firm, they might show you ads that your credit card security is at risk.
Device fingerprinting does involve an IoT device such as your smartphone, tablet, or PC. In other words, it requires a device that should have an operating system and a web browser like Google Chrome, Linux, or Firefox to visit various websites.
The IoT device we use consists of a unique fingerprint that sticks with the device and tracks our movement and activities across the apps and websites. The data brokers upon identifying who the person is build their profiles.
The information collected via device fingerprinting includes IP address, OS and languages, the users’ device time zone, and much more. This practice discovers the device’s attributes on various days to analyze whether the user information is correct or not.
Most people confuse device fingerprinting with cookies. But both of them are two different things. Cookies are stored on the user device while data collected via device fingerprinting is stored in the server database. You can delete or disable cookies on your device but you’ve no control over the data that’s gathered by device footprints. Thus, you must adopt every possible measure to hide your device fingerprints.
As a whole, the practice of digital fingerprinting either via device or browser fingerprinting is a threat to our online privacy and security. It won’t be wrong to say that these practices not just breach our digital privacy but also make us suffer from hacking. Hiding digital fingerprints protects you from various serious online crimes, increases your online presence, and allows you to anonymously surf the internet.
How a Digital Fingerprint Created?
A digital fingerprint is created by collecting various information from users’ devices and browsers. The extracted information includes:
- IP address
- HTTP header
- Clock information that verifies your location
- Browser plugin
- Device’s MAC address
- Fonts installed on your device
- TCP stack variation
- User-agent string
- Flash data
- CSS information
- Internal application programming interfaces (API)
- All the device information like OS, languages, screen resolution.
How Digital Fingerprinting Are Used?
Digital fingerprints are mainly used for ad tracking. The marketers and advertisers use this practice to track the users all across the web. By knowing about their online behavior they create user-profiles and target them with personalized ads.
Different Methods to Hide Digital Fingerprinting
Digital fingerprinting is challenging to stop. But, it is an essential individual need and right to protect their online privacy while using the internet. Security experts believe that if necessary measures are taken, one can hide digital fingerprinting to a great extent.
The following mentioned below are the three best methods for hiding your digital footprints.
1. Data Encryption
A VPN is a perfect privacy tool that provides you robust data encryption and also hides your IP address from all snooping eyes. When you connect to a VPN it acts as a middle man. It first connects you to the VPN server that’s located in some other country and then connects to a website. In this way, your IP address remains unknown to the webserver.
Using a VPN also provides you protection against unwanted surveillance from the ISPs, government, hackers, and even malicious websites. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel where the internet traffic undergoes the encryption process and one can intercept it.
A VPN isn’t very effective for browser fingerprinting. Despite what IP the web server can see, your browser version and settings generate unique browser fingerprints that a VPN can’t block. But, since a VPN provides robust encryption and masks your real IP address, you should use a reliable VPN provider that provides military-grade encryption and maximum security.
Anyone who’s looking for a high level of anonymity and protection can opt for a multi-hop VPN. It is a unique VPN feature that encrypts the internet traffic across more than one server before exiting it on the regular internet.
2. Use a Secure Browser
Using a secure and reliable browser that’s quite popular among the masses is yet another way to hide digital fingerprinting. It is a common perception that the more users a browser has, the fewer chances it has to get targeted for digital fingerprinting.
Use a secure browser like Tor and enhance your digital privacy. The anti-fingerprinting feature of the Tor browser makes it the best option to use to prevent fingerprinting. It blocks information like which operating system you’re using, your time zone, and language preferences. With the absence of such details, it is harder to track or track users’ fingerprints. Since Tor Browser does not provide complete anonymity, you can consider using the best Tor alternatives as well.
Some browsers also allow the users to prevent digital printing in the setting menu. Thus, you need to update your settings to restrict the information sent from your browsing activities.
Besides using a secure browser like Tor, you can also browse in private or Incognito mode to hide digital fingerprinting. It won’t completely hide your digital footprints but can at least restrict the information that can be accessed via digital fingerprinting.
3. Limit the Use of Smartphones
Your smartphones are vulnerable to digital fingerprinting. They serve as a mini-surveillance tool and gather every small detail about your online behavior. By saving your details you’re exposing yourself to threats and vulnerabilities. The information includes:
- Contact number
- Email address
- Credit card number
- Bank account details
- Social security number
It seems challenging for many users. But, for your online security and privacy, you need to ditch your smartphones to protect your online privacy on social media. If you can’t ditch it so, limit its use or avoid sharing personal information and details on various social media platforms. It is easy to track you via any social media platform so, be cautious.
Digital fingerprinting goes beyond your device and browser to collect information about your online behavior. This allows the internet services to identify and track you to sell your online data to advertisers and marketers.
Digital fingerprinting seems like a daunting issue but at least you could make some efforts to mitigate the risks. All those people, who’re seeking the highest level of online protection, need to follow the preventive measures mentioned above.
We’d recommend you first focus on your online data and for this, you need a VPN for encrypting it. Nothing is more important than the security and protection of your online data. Thus, use a reliable VPN provider and hide your digital footprints.