Anonymous browsing habits may reveal who you are

Researchers found that anyone with access to browsing histories can identify many users and their online behaviour by analysing public information from social media accounts.

By Author   |   Published: 20th Jan 2017   2:33 pm Updated: 20th Jan 2017   4:03 pm
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New York: If you think that going incognito online will save you from being seen or noticed, you are wrong. According to researchers including two of Indian-origin, online behaviour can be identified by linking anonymous web browsing histories with your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

Researchers from the Princeton and Stanford universities found that anyone with access to browsing histories can identify many users by analysing public information from social media accounts.

“It is already known that some companies, such as Google and Facebook, track users online and know their identities,” stressed Arvind Narayanan, Assistant Professor at Princeton University.

Researchers said that those companies, which consumers choose to create accounts with, disclosed their tracking. “Users may assume they are anonymous when they are browsing a news or a health website, but our work adds to the list of ways in which tracking companies may be able to learn their identities,” added Narayanan.

The Federal Communications Commission recently adopted privacy rules for internet service providers that allow them to store and use consumer information only when it is “not reasonably linkable” to individual users.

“Our results suggest that pseudonymous browsing histories fail this test,” the researchers wrote.

It was found that online advertising companies build browsing histories of users with tracking programmes embedded on web pages.

“Each person’s browsing history is unique and contains tell-tale signs of their identity,” wrote Sharad Goel, Assistant Professor at Stanford University.

The study is scheduled for presentation at the World Wide Web Conference 2017 at Perth, Australia in April.