Just as our physical fingerprints leave a unique combination of loops, whorls and arches, the web browser we use to connect to websites also leaves its own personal mark. When paired with other identifying factors, these “fingerprints” can be used to identify visitors as they move around the world, even when cookies are cleared or cached. This allows for the detection of fraud, which can be a major problem in online marketplaces like eCommerce and e-banking.
For fraudsters, fingerprinting is a valuable tool since it can be used to circumvent traditional cookie-based tracking, which relies on IP addresses and site cookies. Fingerprinting techniques, on the other hand, are more invasive as they collect information about a user’s device, screen resolution, installed browser extensions and other personal settings.
The information collected through browser fingerprinting includes data such as user agent, browser version, operating system, screen size and resolution, active plugins, in-browser time zone, language preferences, ad blocker usage and other specific device settings. This information is combined into a digital signature which is then hashed, providing a single identifier that can be used to track users’ movements across the internet — even when cookies are cleared or cached.
This fingerprint can be used by marketers to understand how visitors browser fingerprinting API are interacting with their site, what features and settings they are using, and how many devices they are connecting from. As a result, they can deliver content that is most relevant to each individual visitor. It can also be used to improve security measures on a website by detecting potential fraudulent activities, such as account takeover (ATO) or other forms of identity theft.
Aside from its marketing applications, browser fingerprinting is a key part of the digital advertising ecosystem and is set to become an essential tool for fighting fraud and enhancing online customer experience. It’s an effective way to combat evasion tactics used by fraudsters, such as disabling cookies or surfing via virtual private networks (VPNs).
While the general public is aware of the benefits and uses of browser fingerprinting, there is a clear level of concern regarding the amount of personal data being collected. As a result, it’s likely that relevant regulations will be introduced that seek to curb its use and protect user privacy.