Thursday, May 20, 2010
Your web browser may identify you even if you turn off cookies
by Larry Geller
This was a shocker:
I thought I knew something about privacy while surfing the web. Well, this message above shows that my browser is unique among 1,012,354. The info below this banner explained how it is unique.
For one thing, it identified every font installed on my system! That alone would nail me. Probably everyone has a more or less unique set of fonts installed, and the browser is happy to spill this information when prodded by a website you visit.
Test your browser here, and add to their database. They say the data is kept anonymous. They say. For all I know, this website could be run by the NSA.
If we click on this link, will it make our database visible whereas it wouldnʻt be if we had not clicked to see?
No, it won't change anything.
Any website can get this information from your browser, just as this website did.
Another site that demonstrates this is BrowserSpy. The fonts, for example, can be made visible if you have either Flash or Java activated, as most people do. That site demonstrates how the information is gathered.
Over on the left side of their page they have various tests. CSS Exploit will give you a list of some of the sites you have visited!
Now, of course, the next question is how to prevent this information from being revealed.
Well, what to do? One solution is to use NoScript, a popular Firefox plugin, while web surfing. Another would be, if you are concerned about particular websites, to use a proxy. One free service is hidemyass.com, which also has information on other proxy services. I tested hidemyass with Panopticlick and it could not find anything about me.
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Requiring those Captcha codes at least temporarily, in the hopes that it quells the flood of comment spam I've been receiving.