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18 May, 2010

Oh, it's you

For a few months, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been conducting more slightly alarming research into the private information revealed by web browsers, even when obvious tracking by cookies is disabled.

The specific information is itself relatively innocuous – browser configuration, OS and system fonts installed – but the combination of parameters can give each installation an uncommon or unique profile, which could be used to track users.

In my case, the copy of Firefox on my work PC has a browser fingerprint entirely unique among the 864,366 tested so far by the EFF's 'Panopticlick' tool; If I use my copy of IE (yeah, as if...) one other installation amongst 864,395 browsers has the same fingerprint. And my work PC & browser are less customised than my home machine, which I'd be more likely to use for activities I wouldn't want tracked (not that I do; I'm just making the general point that a private PC would see more varied activity than one owned by one's employer).

There are some solutions, but I'm not sure how practical they'd be, as they diminish the browsing experience; they maybe worth considering if you do want to hide specific activities, though.

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