They Know You’re a Dog

Some news from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: most web browsers have a unique “fingerprint” that could be used to track people as they wander through the Internet.  The EFF did a study with volunteers who visited a specific web site, logging in information from each volunteer’s system and browser.  Then they compared that data to a database of “configurations collected from almost a million other visitors”.  What they found was that 84% of the configuration combinations were unique; browsers with Flash or Java plug-ins are 94% unique.  And therefore, trackable.  Even when the volunteers went back and changed their browser settings, the EFF could still identify them with 99% accuracy. So if online privacy is important to you, and you routinely delete HTML and Flash cookies, you can still be identified by the fingerprint of your browser.  So if some nefarious company wanted to track users without their consent, they could do so by recording these unique characteristics.  For those of you who are academically inclined, here’s the whitepaper.

And PS, if you want to see the cartoon from which the title of this post comes, you can find it in the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank.

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