Cross-browser Fingerprinting

Cross-browser fingerprinting refers to a common practice where user identity is tracked and reconciled across as many different web browsers as they might use. Every one of these web browsers has unique features, settings, and functions. 

With cross-browser fingerprinting, a consistent identity of the user can be mapped out regardless of the browser type or amount of browsers.

Cross-browser fingerprinting working principle

When users visit a URL, the browser connects with the website by revealing various kinds of details about itself and its host device. The browser details its type, the operating system it is running on, the plugins available, the screen resolution of the device, and of course, language preferences. With these details, the website can adjust to meet the optimal settings for the browser.

The website uses scripts to collect and use the browser info to generate a unique identifier known as a fingerprint. The fingerprint represents a combination of your many unique browser traits.

This means that websites can track your activity regardless of your browser type, adjusting their service and platform to stay consistent across different browsers. Hence, the term “cross-browser fingerprinting.”

For better context, think of the fingerprint like a cookie which helps services keep track of your preferences. But while you erase cookies, fingerprints are much more difficult to erase. They stick around even if you use private browsing mode, making them a pesky and persistent thing.

Common uses for cross-browser fingerprinting 

  • With cross-browser fingerprinting, advertisers can effectively track your data and preferences and use the data to create ads tailored just for you. 
  • Cross-browser fingerprinting can aid in user profiling. Since brands can now track and record real-time data from everyday users, it is easier to create profiles based on online behaviour, demographics, and even interests.  
  • Companies can use it to track user behaviour, analyse it, and use it for more personalised service provision.
  • Companies can use it to track the conversion journey, from when the user first visits the website to when they make their purchase. 
  • Fortunately, it can also be used in fraud detection, as it is a great way to spot any suspicious or strange activities and identify their threat levels. 

How to avoid cross-browser fingerprinting

  • Only use browsers with great privacy protocols.
  • Utilise secure browser extensions that specifically block cross-browser tracking.
  • Clear your cookies often.