How private is web browsing?

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Albert Wiersch
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How private is web browsing?

Post by Albert Wiersch » Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:54 am

I came across this post by user Uther, found it interesting, and thought it would be good to reproduce it here (with permission):

So, how private is "private" web browsing?
Uther wrote:Not as private as you may think.

Most people think that essentially harmless cookies are the only tracking mechanism for browsers.

A few more alert users may know about Flash LSO objects that are usually not deleted. and can be used to preserve browser data. Use this Adobe tool to manage LSO.

Then there are evercookies. Read the article, bet you didn't know that there were in excess of 13 different places people could hide trackable data on your computer.

Finally, the EFF has just found that there are other metrics to "fingerprint" a browser to uniquely identify it. You don't even have to store data on the computer, you simply query all the environmental data made available to a JavaScript application running in the browser. I tried Panopticlick and in the over 1.2 million browsers, mine was still unique. This is called Panopticlick and you can try it out at the EFF website. Go ahead, the EFF is the safest and most ethical place to find out about this. See how unique your browser is.

Oh yes. so-called "Private Browsing" in all the major browsers. Somewhere in tonight's reading I found the observation that only Safari's Private Browsing Mode was effective in blocking even casual attempts to store identifying data on your computer.
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MikeGale
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Re: How private is web browsing?

Post by MikeGale » Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:07 am

It's not a bad idea to work through what a programmer needs when he is creating a web site that you visit again and again. You don't want to be hassled, he has some work to do to make that happen! If you think through the details you'll see why this is sometimes a good idea. It's not always evil!

If you want privacy then you could try the Tor browser. It was a version of Opera but now it's a modification of mobile Firefox. Not entirely perfect I suspect, but a great deal better than "main street" browsers.

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Albert Wiersch
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Re: How private is web browsing?

Post by Albert Wiersch » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:00 am

MikeGale wrote:It's not a bad idea to work through what a programmer needs when he is creating a web site that you visit again and again. You don't want to be hassled, he has some work to do to make that happen! If you think through the details you'll see why this is sometimes a good idea. It's not always evil!
Hi Mike,

I certainly agree that it's not "intrinsically" evil. I certainly want as little hassle as possible when I visit trusted websites. However, I found it interesting that there are a lot of tracking mechanisms that you wouldn't normally think of and that "private" browsing may not be as private as some people think.
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Lou
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Re: How private is web browsing?

Post by Lou » Fri Oct 22, 2010 10:57 am

It is a quandary. I am basically apposed to all the little "crumbs" websites drop on my system ~~ until I start trying to write functionality into websites. Simple things like a double op-in e Newsletter, or friendly navigation around a large website, and there I am dropping cookie crumbs too.

Not to snoop but to make the visit "as little hassle as possible."
Lou
Say what you will about Sisyphus. He always has work.

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