EFF in the News
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.
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.