Think that turning off cookies and turning on private browsing makes you invisible on the web? Think again.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched a new web app dubbed Panopticlick that reveals just how scarily easy it is to identify you out of millions of web users.
The problem is your digital fingerprint. Whenever you visit a site, your browser and any plug-ins you have installed can leak data. Some of it isn’t very personal, like your user agent string. Some of it is more personally revealing, like which fonts you have installed. But the what if you put it all together? Would the results make you identifiable?
As the EFF says, “this information can create a kind of fingerprint — a signature that could be used to identify you and your computer.”
The EFF’s test suite highlights what most of us probably already suspect — we’re readily identifiable on the web. We ran the test on a Mac using Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome, all of which leaked enough data to make us identifiable according the EFF’s privacy explanations.
The purpose of Panopticlick is to show you how much you have in common with other browsers. The more your configuration mirrors everyone else’s, the harder it would be to identify you. The irony is, the nerdier you are — using a unique OS, a less common browser, customizing your browser with plug-ins and other power-user habits — the more identifiable you are.
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