Security

Host Fingerprinting and Tracking on the Web: Privacy and Security Implications

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Executive Summary

Many web services aim to track clients as a basis for analyzing their behavior and providing personalized services. Despite much debate regarding the collection of client information, there have been few quantitative studies that analyze the effectiveness of host-tracking and the associated privacy risks. In this paper, the authors perform a large-scale study to quantify the amount of information revealed by common host identifiers. They analyze month-long anonymized datasets collected by the Hotmail web-mail service and the Bing search engine, which include millions of hosts across the global IP address space. In this setting, they compare the use of multiple identifiers, including browser information, IP addresses, cookies, and user login IDs.

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