New online tracking technology is on the rise, and it’s hard to get rid of
We all have heard about cookies, which track us while browsing on the Internet. But we already know the best ways to turn them off. And yet, there is something new we should all start worrying about. More and more websites track their users by their fingerprinting. And it’s quite hard to get rid of.
What is fingerprinting?
Fingerprinting is a method that collects characteristics of your mobile device or computer, which are generally shared by default to make apps and websites work. Data, such as screen resolution, operating system, model, language, even emoji sets, is compiled into a user’s profile. It allows having a clear picture of who you are, regardless of your permission to collect information about you.
This tracking technology is for detecting and preventing online identity theft and credit card fraud. At the same time, it’s one of the most useful tools for advertisers. Characteristics of your device can be combined with your browsing history. Thus, companies can not only personalize ads but also make a negative impact on you as a consumer.
“The worst part is that fingerprinting is hard to recognize,” says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. “The same tracking script running in a website's background can actually render videos, photos, and more. Thus, your device’s data can be gathered directly through the app without your knowledge.”
As the privacy expert notes, there’s no way you can opt-out, as compared to cookies, which you can delete. “It makes fingerprinting a growing privacy concern that people should be aware of,” Daniel Markuson adds.
What can internet users do?
Of course, there are ways you can check if you’re safe enough against tracking. Tools such as AmIUnique and Panopticlick analyze how unique your browser is. Also, Mozilla has recently introduced its beta version of blocking fingerprinting. But there are also a few extra steps you can take to avoid tracking. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, gives 4 pieces of advice about fingerprinting.
Awareness. The most important thing that users can do is to become aware of fingerprinting. Even knowing that such tracking technology exists makes you more cautious of your actions online. Unfortunately, it doesn’t restrict companies from collecting your data.
App hygiene. Start with minor things and delete apps on your mobile that you rarely use. Have in mind that free apps, especially the ones from obscure brands, are most likely loaded with trackers. But don’t forget to be aware of the paid ones - some of them may track you, too.
Private, and never public. Another step you can take is to separate your online public life from private. Use one browser for your daily activities and another for your private ones. It will help not to make a full picture of your digital profile. Also, never reuse usernames, email addresses, or any other private information for your public accounts.
Use a VPN. Although it won’t protect you against fingerprinting, it is still a useful tool for keeping your identity secure. It helps you to conceal your IP address, hide your location, and keep your data safe from monitoring. Note that if you use a VPN for both your private and public internet activities, connect to a different server each time.
NordVPN is a leading VPN service provider, used by over 12 million internet users worldwide. NordVPN provides double VPN encryption, malware blocking, and Onion Over VPN. The product is very user-friendly, offers one of the best prices on the market, has over 5,000 servers in 60 countries worldwide, and is P2P friendly. One of the key features of NordVPN is the zero-log policy. For more information: nordvpn.com.