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Browsing histories are as unique as fingerprints, researchers say

August 3, 2012 By:
This may give a new meaning to the term digital fingerprint: a new study by French researchers suggests our browsing habits may be as unique as our fingerprints.
 
A report on tech site CNET cited a study from Inria that discovered most users have a completely distinctive history in terms of websites they regularly visit.
 
CNET said the study, dubbed "Why Johnny can't browse the Internet in Peace: On the uniqueness of Web browsing history patterns," examined the Web browsing history of 368,284 Internet users.
 
"Our results show that for a majority of users (69 percent), the browsing history is unique and that users for whom we could detect at least four visited Web sites were uniquely identified by their histories in 97 percent of cases," the researchers said.
 
Also, they noted a significant rate of stability in browser history fingerprints: for repeat visitors, 38 percent of fingerprints are identical over time.
 
"The results indicate that Web browsing histories, which can be obtained by a variety of known techniques, may be used to divulge personal preferences and interests to Web authors; as such, browsing history data can be considered similar to a biometric fingerprint," they said.
 
The Internet users in the study visited a site that tracks their Web history and then looked at their search patterns and frequency, CNET said.
 
CNET said the study showed people are "predictable in what they browse and unique at the same time."
 
"It also means that anyone sniffing users' browsing history would most likely be able to identify those same users on various Web sites," it said.
 
However, CNET also noted major browsers have put blocks that prohibit browser sniffing, though "the fact remains that Johnny really can't browse the Internet in peace." -GMA News