EFF in the News
Web users are vulnerable to being identified and profiled by Web sites they visit, even if they employ common measures to keep their browsing habits private, according to new research from the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Foursquare is only the latest example of America’s fascination with trading away what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls “locational privacy”—for convenience and safety.
"Several companies are already selling products that claim to use browser fingerprinting to help websites identify users and their online activities. This experiment is an important reality check, showing just how powerful these tracking mechanisms are," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted senior EFF technologist Peter Eckersley as saying.
"Facebook needs to have a few very simple high-level controls" so users can keep data private, said Peter Eckersley, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The company, he said, should stop acting as if "they have a mission to make all of our private lives public."
Four months and 470,161 browsers later, the EFF says it has reached a conclusion: More than eight out of 10 Web browsers, or 84%, have "unique signatures" that can be used to identify them. When browsers had Adobe Flash or Java plug-ins, 94% were "unique and trackable," according to the EFF.
While connecting a Web site visit to a specific computer cannot pinpoint specific details about a user's identity, the information can be cross-referenced to do so, said EFF senior staff technologist Peter Eckersley.
"The important thing is that these facts alone would not be uniquely identifying, but taken together, combine all this stuff and just about everyone is a beautiful snowflake. But that's not a good thing. That means any Web site could track you by recognizing that combination of characteristics."
The San Francisco-based EFF...has posted its entire stock of government files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests online.
Want documents from the Viacom versus Google case? Got 'em. How about how the FBI's formerly secret plans to wiretap "Voice over IP" phone services like Skype? Yup. Telecom lobbying? Warrentless wiretaps? The PATRIOT Act? All that and more.
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.