What is browser fingerprinting and how do I prevent it?

Browser fingerprinting tracks your online behavior, allowing others to know who you are as you browse the internet — all without any need for account logins or cookies.

Just like a human fingerprint, your browser has a set of unique traits that can be traced back to you — and everything you do on the internet.

According to PanoptiClick, there is a chance that one in 286,777 browsers has the same browser fingerprint for another user. So the chances Of overlapping browser are pretty slim. That’s why a browser fingerprint is an invaluable piece of information for marketers that want to sell you stuff!

Curious to see how unique your browser fingerprint is? Check out this website…you’ll be chocked to see

When you browse through the internet, many web portals capture some of this information, such as screen size and browser type, to give you the best experience. However, browser fingerprints can also be used for tracking and identification. Websites can record all kinds of information about you through this fingerprint, and then connect it to other similar fingerprints to get a precise picture of your browsing behaviors and website activities. 

How to prevent browser fingerprinting

If you are concerned about your personal information and don’t want to share it over the internet through browser fingerprints, you might want to stop it. Unfortunately, there is only one method if you want to stop browser fingerprinting completely, which is not using the internet at all. Yes, it’s nearly impossible to keep your browsers from collecting your data because browsers use HTTP headers to collect your fingerprint. 

But…

There are certain security practices you can use to mitigate your browser fingerprint or make it unoriginal. The following practices will make your identity harder to track and prevent advertisers from learning extremely personal information about your web browsing history.

1. Disable Flash

If you are a Chrome user, then you should not worry about flash because Chrome will stop using it by the end of 2020. Moreover, many reputable sites have stopped using flash as well, so it’s a no-brainer because it’s becoming a relic of the past.

Most of the experts believe that flash serves no considerable purpose other than collecting fingerprint data. You can just disable it or uninstall it right away because you do not need it if you are not explicitly using it for a specific purpose.

Otherwise, it will keep tracking your data for a short time because the newer versions of all the major browsers already have decided to stop supporting it.

2. Revisit extensions and plugins

Browser extensions and plugins can be great assets for browsing. They can provide deeper integrations to the services you use every day. But these can also make it much easier for others to track you.

But think about it: the more extensions and plugins your browser has, the more unique your browser fingerprint. That configuration is much harder to replicate by someone else!

That’s why you should uninstall the plugins that you don’t use right away and try to use standalone desktop apps as alternatives to the ones you use. 

Bear in mind that disabling the plugins doesn’t do any good. After all, it can still be used as your fingerprint because it stays in your browser. The most secure route is to use JavaScript disabling extensions. It disables all the sites to execute JavaScript except for the ones you explicitly allow.

3. Keep all of your software updated

In order to protect yourself from cybercriminals and hacking attacks, try to keep all of your software updated. It means you need to restart your browser and sometimes computer as well. It can be a little cumbersome, but it’s worth it if you want to reduce your browser fingerprinting.

The most important software that needs to be updated all the time is your anti-malware and anti-virus. Otherwise, such software won’t be able to detect the latest cyberattacks, exploits, and malware.

4. Use Incognito or private mode

Using an incognito mode of your browser is a wise idea to reduce fingerprinting. While it’s not perfect, it does reduce the amount of information shared with others. To see how it’s working, you can still visit any fingerprint checker to see the results while you are in private or incognito mode that will most probably be unique.

For that matter, we recommend you use Tor for the most private browsing experience. If you have heard about Tor, you must’ve also heard that it’s for dark web browsing. Tor is most commonly used for that purpose, but it is also an excellent way to avoid all types of possible tracking.

5. Use Tor

The Tor browser is an extremely secure and private browser that includes anti-fingerprinting features, such as cloaking your operating system and blocking revealing information like your time zone and language preferences. Without these details it’s much harder for your browser to be fingerprinted.

A reminder though: the most anonymous way to use any Internet browser is to avoid installing extensions and plug-ins. Those are simply the easiest way to know who you are, since so few people have the same combination of installations. Stick with the default version to better anonymize your browser.

6. Use a VPN

A virtual private network boosts your online safety, security as well as privacy. It masks your address and physical location by routing your internet traffic through a third-party server. That way you appear like you’re browsing from someplace else.

VPNs can provide you protection against hackers, surveillance, ISPs (Internet Service Providers), and malicious websites.Also, your data transmission is often encrypted so that no one can intercept it.

Image: RestorePrivacy.com

Keep in mind that VPNs don’t prevent websites from using JavaScript and HTTP headers to collect browser fingerprints. It removes your IP address from the headers and equation, but your fingerprint still might be unique. But you can always use the mixture of all the tips mentioned earlier along with the VPN to keep websites from collecting your fingerprinting data.

6. Ditch the smartphone

You’re really gonna hate this one…but giving up your smart phone is the quickest way to preserve your anonymity. Phones are basically mini-surveillance tools that also use device fingerprinting that make it easy to attach your identity to your online behaviors.

Next steps to protect your privacy online

Web trackers use many sneaky and technical ways to collect your browsing fingerprint. But we hope that these ways will help you reduce it as much as possible and allow your fingerprint not to appear unique on the internet. Feel free to let us know about your thoughts and expressions regarding browser fingerprints.

A few other steps to protect your privacy while browsing online:

What is device fingerprinting and how to prevent it

How to contact the Big Three credit bureaus

Start Fighting for Your Privacy!

Your personal data & contact info is likely held by thousands of companies, being bought and sold every day for marketing purposes (because of fine print when you clicked "I Agree"), just waiting for a data breach to expose your info to spammers, hackers and identity thieves on the dark web. Entrust Privacy Bee to fight on your behalf and we'll continually force marketers and data brokers to purge your info from their systems!

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