The Rise of Digital Fingerprinting

So what exactly is ‘fingerprinting,’ when it comes to your personal information on the internet? The short explanation is that an algorithm searches for all the characteristics on your mobile devices and laptop, such as what model and operating system you’re using, your device’s screen resolution, and then triangulating all this info in order to locate and follow you online as you browse and turn apps on and off. Once the algorithm has gathered enough intel about your actions, in theory, that data is assembled to create a personal profile to identify you to advertisers and others the same way your fingerprint would identify you to the police. Or another way of putting it is it’s like a bar code, but for a human being.

While only about 3.5% of mobile apps now use fingerprinting — that figure is double from 2016. And the practice is only going to grow.

Most fingerprinting is done by free apps; the ones you pay for will rarely, if ever, be using the fingerprinting algorithm — because reputable companies know consumers don’t appreciate paying for being spied on. So the best defense is to limit the use of all freebies; especially those from unfamiliar brands.

Experts say that cyber fingerprinting is not a major concern or problem right now — but in less than a dozen years, if it remains unregulated and unrecognized, there’s a possibility it will be used to program robocalls for specific products and services to specific persons. It’s also possible that banks and other lending institutions may want to check your credit and buying patterns through cyber fingerprinting — without ever telling you about it. The same goes for HR departments when looking for work — they may simply pay to dip into your cyber fingerprint to see if you are involved in any so-called dark texting or posting, and what your shopping list contains each month.

That should be enough to put you on your guard right now. Forewarned is forearmed.

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