EFF in the News
Even without cookies, popular browsers such as Internet Explorer and Firefox give Web sites enough information to get a unique picture of their visitors about 94 percent of the time, according to research compiled over the past few months by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Chances are the web browser you're using is leaving behind a pretty good "digital fingerprint" that makes it easy for those with an interest (i.e. government snoops, advertisers, et al.) to identify you.
That's the word today from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which said they did an experiment that showed eight out of 10 browsers have "unique, trackable signatures." Browsers with Adobe Flash and Java plug-ins were even MORE identifiable, at a rate of 94 percent.
Taken together, these bits of data produce a unique "fingerprint" that works even in the absence of cookies or other traditional Web tracking tools. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, concerned about the issue, has just wrapped up its own study on browser fingerprinting, and it finds that even the privacy conscious have made themselves simple to track.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation today warned that more than 80 percent of browsers reveal identifiable "fingerprints" that could allow a user's Web surfing to be tracked. The privacy watchdog urged that greater attention be paid to this by the public and policy makers.
In December, 2009, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in conjunction with the Samuelson Law, Technology, & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California's Berkeley School of Law filed suit against a half-dozen governmental agencies for refusing to disclose their policies for using social networking sites for investigations, data-collection, and surveillance.
Marcia Hofmann, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the fact that Google collected the data by accident would probably protect the company from liability under the federal wiretap law, which prohibits unauthorized access of communications.
"To violate the law requires that the interception was intentional," said Hofmann.
"These new 'privacy' changes are clearly intended to push Facebook users to publicly share even more information than before," said the EFF's Kevin Bankston at the time. "Even worse, the changes will actually reduce the amount of control that users have over some of their personal data."
When Facebook was incorporated five years ago, it was a “private space for communication with a group of your choice,” writes Kurt Opsahl, senior staff lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public.
Viacom accused Google and YouTube in March 2007 of encouraging copyright infringement and now much of the film industry is telling the judge that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's safe harbor provisions don't protect YouTube, acquired by Google in 2006, from responsibility for the infringement on the site.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Library Association filed their own amicus documents on behalf of Google, which on Tuesday defended its legal position.