How Does Device Fingerprinting Operate and What Does It Entail?

Advertisers were given a chance they had never had before as advertising transitioned from the offline to the online realm: personalised ad targeting. Rather than responding to contextual targeting, they might target Internet users with their advertising based on their behaviour as well as other information, such as their location. From the mid-2000s onward, this approach which mostly depended on browser cookies—became the industry standard for ad targeting for online advertising businesses.

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But over time, browsers have limited the usage of cookies, users frequently remove them, and the prevalence of ad blockers hasn’t helped to improve the dependability of cookies. So, a new type of online tracking called device fingerprinting was developed in an effort to preserve behavioural targeting and guarantee that advertising corporations could identify and monitor people throughout the web.

Device Fingerprinting: What Is It?

The method of identifying a device (or browser) based on its particular and unique configuration is known as “device fingerprinting” (also known as “canvas fingerprinting,” “browser fingerprinting,” and “machine fingerprinting”). Device fingerprints must be saved server-side, that is, in a database, as opposed to web cookies, which are kept client-side, that is, on the user’s device.

How Does Fingerprinting on Devices Operate?

The process of determining a device fingerprint starts upon a user’s website visit. All pertinent device data is gathered by the device fingerprint tracker, which is usually a JavaScript component (browser version/type, OS, etc.).

From there, it’s similar to utilising tidbits of information about Internet users to play the detective board game Clue: you may not always have a whole picture of every user, but the more data you have, the simpler it is to apply statistics and focus on a single individual.

Similar to this, companies that offer device fingerprinting compile information such as the aforementioned points. After that, they give it a distinct fingerprint or hash. Utilising this in conjunction with cookies or other identifiers significantly increases the precision of the tracking and attribution.The computational burden of computing the hash and keeping all the related data is the drawback.

Since the fingerprints (or IDs) are retained server side (i.e. in a database) rather than transmitted back to the browser as is the case when cookies are delivered, running device fingerprinting demands a lot of storage. For businesses that use device fingerprinting, this is advantageous because it is nearly hard to prevent the development of device fingerprints.

Closing Remarks

The digital world has become increasingly complicated, as has previously been mentioned. This means that as customers grow more impulsive in their browsing behaviours, marketers and advertisers will have to work very hard to stay up with the expanding number of touchpoints that are being developed.  By connecting the “person” to other fingerprints (i.e., devices) and recognising patterns of related fingerprints originating from a common source, device fingerprints may also be enhanced. It is also feasible to link a user’s identity to several devices if sufficient data is provided.