Maybe you are familiar with the fact that a webserver can see which browser version you’re using and for example also how big the window is you’re using to view that website. In itself that is interesting enough for some statistics on the visitors of your website.
But there is more, way more and that is where thoughts of privacy, but also of marketing and research potential come in to play. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has made a website to show a bit of what is possible. (Go support them here, by the way.)
Panopticlick is of course a very clever name in itself, but what does it do? It tests your browser to see how unique it is based on the information it will share with sites it visits. as it turns out, that is often very unique! So someone with access to multiple, if not a lot, websites could, at the cost of quite some server load, potentially track you on your merry way across the internet. This might be heaven for marketeers in some way, but even in this industry tracking to this extent seems to be frowned upon. Cross site tracking cookies have been the topic of much debate, even amongst not so ‘privacy focused’ people, although their existence might prove there is still quite some demand.
Installing a lot of fonts of my system might not have helped for me; when testing it turned out I am very unique. (That is bad if you dislike being traced or tracked, good if you like targeted ads.)
Your browser fingerprint appears to be unique among the 222,512 tested so far.
Currently, we estimate that your browser has a fingerprint that conveys at least 17.76 bits of identifying information.
This is one of those things that you know about, somewhere in the back of your mind, but may have never really considered as an option. You know about browsers being able to detect if you have a certain font on your computer etc. but how could that all fit together with other statistics? That is one of those things you might not always think about.
Thus the topic might well be; are people aware of the (theoretical) possibilities and are they going to be used? Of course the question still remains; how effective can this type of tracking be? This is exactly one of the reasons for starting this project. The EFF wants to try to get your information and add it to their database. That sounds evil enough, though fortunately we might want to believe the EFF about that “anonymous” thing and them not tracking us, of course. Hopefully, this will help evaluate the capabilities of Internet tracking and advertising companies, a goal which in the end can be beneficial regardless of which side you’re on.