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Noscript Chrome & Noscript Firefox – Browser Fingerprint Protection

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Despite what many think, the NoScript Chrome / Firefox extension cannot on its own offer anything like a fully private web browser experience. From its early days as NoScript Firefox, the browser extension gathered a solid reputation for preventing tracking code from reaching user's PCs – code that allows internet entities to track our movements online. Internet privacy articles recommended we do our best to prevent tracking, and No Script offered a way of doing so.

But you should understand that installing NoScript Chrome /Firefox may prevent some forms of tracking, but it is just one tiny step towards full web privacy... if such a thing is even possible. Websites are able to track your movements online even without the use of cookies and web bugs. And no, we are not even talking about IP geolocation tracking. Here is a way websites track users that you have probably never heard of:

Browser Fingerprinting – The Danger

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Online Fingerprint

A rush of internet privacy articles followed Electronic Frontier Foundation's release of a browser fingerprint checking service – which shows you just how easy it is for sites to identify you simply by looking at the uniqueness of your browser's configuration. This service - panopticlick.eff.org - runs a free test on your browser that immediately analyzes everything your browser gives away, such as its specifications , version, your user agent, plugin list, system fonts and much more. All this shows just how distinguishable your browser is from other computers that you are apparently running the same setup – the results are scary. And they get much scarier when you remember your IP geolocation already distinguishes you from everyone on the internet outside your town.

Not even factoring in IP geolocation, if you have a standard browser configuration, you will find that your setup is unique amongst 2.5 million users (this figure is the average level of browser entropy for those taking no special care of their privacy online). If you are this unique just from your browser, all the talk about cookie and web bug tracking becomes almost entirely irrelevant – most websites you visit don't even need to track users with cookies or tracking pixels, as they may easily tell who you are just by looking at what your browser reveals.

Take a moment to consider what the above means. If you ever enter your name or email into a site, from that point forward the site and its web of affiliations may trace you as a person through the internet until you significantly change up your browser configuration. What is more, that information is stored in internet logs, so your visits to certain sites can be traced back historically. And you can forget the argument that 'other people share the same internet router with me – sites know who you are from your very own computer and smartphone.

Browser Fingerprint Protection from NoScript Chrome/Firefox

Something else you may not know is that NoScript Firefox and Chrome is not just good at blocking script-based tracking, it is in fact also an excellent front line of defense against browser fingerprint tracking. When activated, NoScript actually blocks the ability of sites to detect many of your browser's configuration settings, and doing so has a significant overall effect on how identifiable your browser fingerprint is. Users that run NoScript Firefox or Chrome have shown that they reduce their browser fingerprint to approximately 1 in 3750. This is a significant reduction from 2.5 million, but not nearly enough to make you feel hidden in the crowd, especially when your browser data will be cross-referenced by other information like your IP address and visiting habits etc.


Part II: Additional Protection Against Browser Fingerprinting

Written by: 
Robin Welles; internet security team, expats team