The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. - Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fingerprints on the Internet?

How unique and identifiable are we while surfing the Internet from the silence of our home? Do we leave behind traces that through which we can be recognized?

Our Browsers, while useful tools for gathering information, communicate with the web-servers we visit, exchanging a plethora of information, giving to the server especially information about our computer, especially the configuration of the  browser and it's helper applications (the plug-ins, installed fonts, video and audio players, etc) that are installed.

The browsers do this so that the server has the possibility to format and adapt the pages that it will deliver to us so that they are displayed correctly. But usually, the server keeps this information after we leave.

Because all these fonts and plug-ins vary from computer to computer, all this data and information, although anonymous while it's not coupled with the IP address, gathered and analyzed create a configuration fingerprint almost unique, that we leave behind while surfing. Gathering this information from several servers, it's easy to create and follow a path we make on the internet and process and store and identify us while returning to a server. Like a fingerprint.

You can test how unique is your browser by visiting project Panopticlick...