Introduction

Ever wonder how websites seem to know what you’d like or what you’re looking for? The answer is browser fingerprinting, and most websites utilize this technology to provide relevant content. Originally designed for targeted advertising, fingerprinting can now be exploited by malicious individuals to access your personal information.

Every time you browse the internet, you leave a unique fingerprint, which highlights your preferences, interests and browsing behavior or patterns. With fingerprinting, websites can identify your computer the next time it visits, and generate content accordingly. This is sometimes seen as intrusive leading most web users to seek protection and prevent advanced tracking.

With fingerprint protection, you leave no trace of your activities on the web and don’t have to worry about your data being safe. Fingerprint protection is a relatively new technology, existing for just over a decade but has already become a must-have. Since its invention, it has rapidly evolved to keep up with a constantly evolving digital world.

In this article, we’ll look at browser fingerprinting, fingerprint protection and its role in preventing advanced tracking.

What Is Browser Fingerprinting?What Is Browser Fingerprinting?

Browser fingerprinting refers to the process by which websites collect a user’s data each time they visit, and build a profile with this information. The information collected is referred to as a digital fingerprint and it contains data like your computer hardware specifications, online preferences and interests. With this fingerprint, the website can easily identify you on your next visit and generate content tailored to you automatically.

With most businesses maintaining an online presence, digital fingerprinting has become all the more important. With this, companies can identify potential customers, and generate adverts according to a user’s preferences. This is already employed by search engines as is seen in some of the adverts that come your way always seem to be what you need.

How Does Browser Fingerprinting Work

Browser fingerprinting works by the communication of your device with websites, to improve your browsing experience. Each time you visit a website, data is exchanged like the device you are on, and specifications, which in turn is used to generate an optimal webpage and improve your experience. If you are on a mobile, a website’s format will appear different from when you are on a PC, and this is due to fingerprinting.

Unfortunately, the device specification isn’t where websites stop with digital fingerprinting. It also provides your location, installed software and hardware, providing the website with a clearer picture of who you are. While this information doesn’t seem harmful, it’s scary to think that websites can tell even the software on your device. It becomes evident that no data is safe from the internet, especially with fingerprinting.

Uses Of Browser Fingerprinting

Browser fingerprinting may be considered a menace currently, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without beneficial uses. There are several uses of digital fingerprinting in different industries as highlighted below:

Security

The original intention of browser fingerprinting was to track and stop suspicious activities on the internet. With the advent of bots and phishing scammers, fingerprinting was created to help minimize these threats. By building a unique fingerprint, a suspicious device can easily be identified and blocked before any further harm is done.

This puts browser fingerprinting in a unique light with security agencies. Some Browser fingerprinting techniques may even be able to bypass VPNs and detect any suspicious activity.

Marketing

As highlighted earlier, browser fingerprinting can be used to predict what appeals to a user. This data is invaluable in the advertising industry, allowing companies to easily identify potential customers, and even provide custom advertisements. Search engines can better build ads targeted at users and can websites with each visitor.

What Is The Difference Between Cookies And Browser Fingerprinting?What Is The Difference Between Cookies And Browser Fingerprinting?

Cookies and browser fingerprinting are often used interchangeably, but they are different things entirely. Both cookies and browser fingerprinting deal with information from your PC, but with one critical difference, you can delete cookies, while the digital fingerprint remains. There are several other differences between cookies and browser fingerprinting as highlighted below:

  • Permission: One critical difference between cookies and browser fingerprinting is with permission. Cookies require a user’s authorization whereas a digital fingerprint is generated automatically every time you visit a website.
  • Storage: Another critical difference between cookies and browser fingerprinting is regarding where information is stored. Cookies are generated by the website and deposited on your device as an identifier, whereas a digital fingerprint has no need for storage on your device.
  • Control: Cookies give the user control over information shared and stored, with users being able to relinquish permission or delete the cookies if necessary. On the other hand, users have no control over browser fingerprinting and once generated, the website can use it as it sees fit.

How Do I Block Browser Fingerprinting?

With browser fingerprinting becoming more intrusive, the need to block or stop it is higher than ever. Unfortunately, once it has begun, the user has no real control and is at the mercy of the website. Thankfully, advanced tracking and digital fingerprinting can be avoided or prevented with fingerprint protection.

What Is Fingerprint Protection?

Fingerprint protection is a method by which a user prevents a digital fingerprint or leaves only a partial fingerprint. With fingerprint protection, the user can limit what information the browser gets or appear as a new device each time. Websites are unable to generate a complete profile for your device and will constantly reset preferences.

How Fingerprint Protection Works

Fingerprint protection mostly works by preventing websites from ever getting your data. This way, there is no fingerprint to worry about, nor one you need protection for. Instead, websites are only able to access temporary information about your device which is used in formatting and optimization. This is known as a partial fingerprint and is rarely enough to cause any major security concerns.

Using Fingerprint ProtectionUsing Fingerprint Protection

There are many possible ways to achieve fingerprint protection, and you can employ whichever means is best suited to your needs. Fingerprint protection techniques range from basic to advanced, and we’ll look at the basic techniques.

Browser Settings

The most common protection you can get against browser fingerprinting is from your local browser. Depending on the browser in question, there are different possible options you can employ. In your browser settings, you can limit cookies, control the information divulged and prevent advanced tracking.

Browser settings may not be considered advanced enough to serve in fingerprinting protection, but they give you a level of control. With the right settings, you can limit digital fingerprinting to partial, and even prevent fingerprinting as a whole. Unfortunately, no matter how many settings you apply, browser settings only offer basic fingerprint protection, and some websites have ways around this. You’ll need stronger means of browser fingerprint protection.

Browser Extension

A first step into advanced browser fingerprinting protection, browser extensions offer a greater level of security. Third-party extensions are designed to block websites from crawling your device, keeping your information safe while still allowing you to browse the internet. With the right extension, you can ensure that any website you visit has no information from your device.

When done correctly, you’ll see new information each time you visit a website. Without a fingerprint to identify your device, the website will randomly generate information and format and this will be reflected in the webpage. If this technique still doesn’t offer enough fingerprint protection for you, there are other methods you can try.

Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

When it comes to online privacy, there is no tool as powerful or as famous as a VPN. A VPN gives you a temporary IP address each time you visit the internet, preventing any history from forming. VPNs also provide certain security functions like traffic encryption, making it hard for websites to generate a fingerprint.

A VPN can protect multiple devices simultaneously, allowing you the safety you require on the internet. Unfortunately, VPNs can sometimes prove to be too expensive, leading us to another excellent method of fingerprint protection, proxies.

Proxies

Much like VPNs, proxies also come between your device and the internet, regulating traffic in a one-way direction. Your data doesn’t leave your device, but you can surf the internet as you please. There are different types of proxies all of which have different uses and benefits, but a residential proxy is perfect for fingerprint protection.

If you’re on a mobile device, a mobile proxy might be better suited to your device and offer a more flexible solution to data fingerprinting.

Incognito Mode

Incognito mode is built into most browsers and is designed to give you privacy on the internet. Incognito mode works by disguising your online presence. You appear to be offline while online, and this prevents cookies and digital fingerprinting from identifying your device. Your browser also has limited access to your device while in incognito mode.

Unfortunately, incognito mode is a temporary solution as most websites require some cookies to function optimally. You may have an issue with how certain websites look while in incognito mode.

Advanced Tracking And Fingerprint Protection With Proxies

With proxies being one of the key ways to achieve fingerprint protection, you’ll need a reliable source. NetNut is one of the leading providers of proxies in the world and is dedicated to helping you enjoy your browsing safely. You can surf the web, extract data and even visit certain websites repeatedly without worrying about leaving a digital fingerprint.

NetNut is designed to cater to all your proxy needs with services like ISP proxies, rotating residential proxies, mobile proxies and static residential proxies. Proxies also provide other services which help make your web experience more pleasant. For example, services like ISP proxies can provide a workaround to geo-restrictions and even assist with captcha, which are among the most notorious menaces on the web today.

If you’re in search of fingerprinting protection, look no further than NetNut. With ISP proxies and a whole lot more at your disposal, you can simply choose whichever services are best for your browsing needs. You can implement advanced tracking and fingerprint protection, allowing you to maintain your anonymity in a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve.

Join the NetNut family today and add security like never before to your browsers, both on mobile devices and on your personal computer.

Conclusion

With the ever-advancing digital world, there is a greater need for privacy now than ever before. Old technologies employed no longer have the desired effect as data tracking and browser fingerprinting are also improving. You need to protect your devices, and your data from the internet and this can be achieved with fingerprint protection.

There are many ways to achieve fingerprinting as discussed above. In a world with static residential proxies, VPNs and numerous browser plugins, the power to protect your digital fingerprint is at your fingertips. You can also limit your digital fingerprint just enough to allow browsers to have only a general idea of your preferences, and improve your browsing experience accordingly.

With the internet continually evolving, the relevance of browser fingerprinting will only seem to grow. Likewise, the importance of digital fingerprinting will increase especially if you plan to have a semblance of privacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do different browsers have different fingerprints?

Even on the same device, multiple browsers tend to have unique fingerprints, especially when some settings are different. Some browsers also have some built-in features which can help minimize the amount of data used in creating your digital fingerprint. It is however possible that despite their unique signatures, websites can detect when two browsers are from one device.

Fingerprinting protection can limit a website’s access to your device, but without it, there isn’t much to stop the website. With a plethora of data available, it won’t take long for the website in question to detect your IP address and notice that both browsers originate from the same place.

How do I make my browser fingerprint less unique?

The most important technique to reduce the uniqueness of your browser fingerprint is to use generally common browsers. The more common the browser, the less unique your browser is, making it easier for your digital fingerprint to blend into the background. A lesser-known browser on the other hand will give you a largely unique digital fingerprint.

Another possible solution is to use less plugins, as plugins help make your fingerprint more unique. It’s unlikely that two different individuals will use the same sets of plugins especially as the number of plugins gets higher. With fewer plugins, your signature will be too generic, making your data harder to identify.

Can I change my browser fingerprint?

It is possible to change and modify your browser fingerprint, especially when you’re looking to protect your data. In a process called fingerprint spoofing, you can add characters, or other details allowing the fingerprint to appear different from what it is. Modifying your browser fingerprint is another possible method of fingerprint protection.

Depending on your browser, fingerprint spoofing can be achieved with plugins. Some plugins automatically spoof your fingerprint whilst others allow you manually alter it. Regardless of the mode of operation, the outcome is the same and your fingerprint is inaccurate, while your data is protected.

Advanced Tracking And Fingerprint Protection- NetNut
QA Specialist
Daniel Halperin is a seasoned QA Engineer with a strong background in software quality assurance. He is currently working at NetNut Proxy Network in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he specializes in test planning, stress testing, and Bash scripting. Previously, he contributed to the success of many projects, where he designed and executed manual and automated test strategies, improved product stability with automated API testing, and implemented CI for API tests. With a solid foundation in software testing and a passion for ensuring product reliability, Daniel is a valuable asset to any development team.