ORF’s Futurezone.orf.at reported last week about the PANOPTICLICK initiative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation which aims to inform users how traceable their browsers are and suggest various relief-measure. So far nothing new or exciting.
Things however got exciting when I ran the TEST with my default browser (Firefox) and was shown why my browser has got a pretty unique (unique among the 414,408 browsers tested so far by the EEF) fingerprint on the world wide web.
Summary for Jurists: Browser do not only transmit very basic information such as the computer’s operating system (e.g. Intel Mac OS X 10.6; en-US), the language selected, the screen resolution, the time zone used but also about the plugins (e.g. Windows Media Plugin 2.2.1, Java Embedding Plugin 0.9.7.1, iPhotoPhotocast) installed and the individual fonts (as I do graphics for clients who use specific fonts, I have added a nice selection of fonts) that are installed on the computer. Each element of this information, continuously provided by your browser while surfing, viewed on its own, is widely irrelevant, but combined however it creates a pretty distinctive “fingerprint“.
To definitely identify a single person on the net 33 bits (quantity of entropy) are needed, my browser alone provides around 19 bits of information (For a very interesting description of the whole issue, that will force you to reactivate knowledge untouched since you last maths exam at high school, please click here).