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What is Fingerprint and how does it affect anonymity

Every browser and device possesses a unique digital fingerprint, impacting user anonymity and increasing vulnerability to tracking, even with methods like proxy servers or incognito browsing. However, tools and browser extensions that block scripts and trackers can mitigate the risk of fingerprinting tracking.

What is Fingerprint

A fingerprint is a compilation of data from a user's device or browser, utilized for identification purposes. This data encompasses details about the browser and operating system. Fingerprinting, commonly employed for online user tracking, forms a digital fingerprint, enabling advertising companies and analytical services to gather extensive information about user behaviors on websites. For developers and analysts, it serves as a tool to gauge user responses and refine their online resources accordingly.

How does Fingerprint work

Fingerprinting operates by aggregating data on various aspects of your device or browser to create a digital fingerprint. Key characteristics include:

  • Browser version;
  • Installed plugins and extensions;
  • Browser language;
  • Operating system and version;
  • Device type;
  • Screen resolution;
  • IP address (including IPv6);
  • DNS, host, and provider details;
  • Connection type (e.g., 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi);
  • List of installed fonts;
  • Timezone;
  • Hardware components like video card and processor.

This information is gathered by scripts on websites during user interaction, forming a unique identifier or digital fingerprint. This identifier is then used for tracking the user across different websites and online platforms, aiming to provide a distinct means of online user tracking.

How to check browser Fingerprint

To assess your browser's fingerprint, various online services and tools are available, although it's crucial to remember that these tools are more about revealing what data your browser may expose, rather than providing a definitive measure of anonymity. You can check your digital fingerprint using:

  • “Am I Unique” online checker;
  • “Panopticlick” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF);
  • “Device Info” add-on for Firefox, or 'Browseinfo' for Chrome, offering detailed browser characteristics.

These resources shed light on potential fingerprinting characteristics but don't guarantee complete accuracy or reflect real-world anonymity levels. For instance, using “Am I Unique”:

  1. Visit the site and click “View my fingerprint” on the homepage.

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  2. The tool will display various fingerprint aspects it can detect, starting with OS, browser, language, and timezone.

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  3. Further down, you'll find more in-depth details like HTTP header attributes - information sent to servers about your browser and OS.

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  4. And also JavaScript attributes such as:

    • User-agent;
    • Timezone;
    • Content language;
    • Font list;
    • Cookie information;
    • The platform the browser operates on.

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While these features represent a snapshot of your browser's fingerprint, “Am I Unique” offers a deeper dive into a wider range of data for a comprehensive view.

Ways to change Fingerprint in the browser

For enhanced privacy and anonymity, consider utilizing additional tools to modify your browser fingerprint. This combination of methods not only boosts your online anonymity but also strengthens your privacy and minimizes tracking risks. The key methods include:

  • Antidetect browsers;
  • Proxy servers;
  • Browser extensions.

Let’s delve into each method for a better understanding of their roles in safeguarding online privacy.

Antidetect browsers

Anti-detect browsers, like AdsPower, offer the capability to create distinct browser settings, including customizable fingerprint parameters. These browsers enable the creation of multiple profiles, each with modifiable browser characteristics for each session, thus complicating tracking efforts. Using AdsPower as an example:

  1. Launch AdsPower and click “New Profile” to create a new profile. In the subsequent window, you can define various digital fingerprint aspects such as:
    • Operating system
    • Browser
    • User Agent
    • Cookie

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On the browser's left side, the user's initial information is displayed. Above this, the “New fingerprint” button allows for the generation of a new, randomly ordered fingerprint. Once you complete these steps, the specified fingerprint will be active for that profile.

Proxy servers

Using proxy servers can alter your local IP address, enhancing your online anonymity. For optimal results, it's advisable to choose highly trusted proxies, like mobile proxy servers, which accurately identify the real provider and host. In contrast to IP addresses from data centers, mobile proxies, when verified through checkers, reveal information about the actual provider. To illustrate this, let's compare the data obtained from checking an IPV4 proxy versus a mobile proxy.

Browser extensions

Specific browser extensions are designed to modify browser fingerprints by altering characteristics like:

  • User-Agent;
  • Language;
  • Fonts;
  • Timezone data.

By modifying these characteristics it reduces the uniqueness of your digital footprint. Extensions such as “Canvas Fingerprint Defender” are tailored for this purpose. Using Canvas, you can create an alternate fingerprint. This extension is user-friendly, installing it in your browser ensures that with each page refresh, your fingerprint changes to a “fake” one. An icon in the browser's main menu bar indicates the extension's activity, allowing you to monitor your current fingerprint and observe its changes after each update.

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By using the methods described, you can effectively manage and change your digital fingerprint, ensuring a more secure and private browsing experience while diminishing the distinctiveness of your online identity.