Cross-browser fingerprinting definition
Cross-browser fingerprinting is a technique used to identify and track internet users across different web browsers they might use. Each web browser has unique properties, settings, and capabilities. Cross-browser fingerprinting takes advantage of these differences to create a profile of a user that remains consistent across multiple browsers.
See also: tracking cookie
How does cross-browser fingerprinting work?
- When you visit a website, your browser reveals a lot of information about itself (e.g., browser type, operating system, screen resolution, installed plugins, fonts, and language preferences).
- Websites use scripts to collect this information and create a unique identifier — or fingerprint — that represents your specific combination of browser properties.
- Since some of this information remains relatively stable across different browsers, websites can link your online activity with cross-browser fingerprinting. The fingerprint can still identify you even if you switch from Chrome to Firefox or Safari.
- Unlike cookies, which can be cleared, cross-browser fingerprints are harder to erase. Even if you clear your cookies or use private browsing mode, your fingerprint can persist and continue to track your online behavior.
Common cross-browser fingerprinting uses
- Targeted advertising. Advertisers use cross-browser tracking to gather data about users’ interests, browsing habits, and preferences to deliver personalized ads.
- User profiling. Companies use cross-browser fingerprinting to build profiles of users by collecting data on their activities, interests, demographics, and online behavior.
- Behavior analysis. Websites and marketers use cross-browser tracking to understand user behavior patterns (e.g., for optimizing web design).
- Conversion tracking. Online businesses use cross-browser tracking to monitor user journeys across browsers, from initial visits to final purchases.
- Security and fraud detection. Cross-browser tracking can be employed to detect anomalies and potential security threats.
Preventing cross-browser fingerprinting
- Use privacy-focused browsers.
- Use secure browser extensions that block cross-browser tracking.
- Regularly clear cookies.