by Vignesh Ramachandran, Stanford University
A user’s anonymous browsing history, tweets, emails, and cookies can be used to piece together their identity, according to a team of Stanford University and Princeton University researchers.
Participants in the study, called the Footprints Project, were invited to share their anonymous browsing data and Twitter activity through the project website. The names of sites clicked on through Twitter while using Google Chrome were compiled and compared with users’ Twitter profiles and the other accounts they followed. Out of nearly 300 users who visited the site, the system accurately identified 80 percent of them.
Shukla hopes that as people realize how easy it is to track their digital footprints, this will lead to a change of policy, such as collecting far less data. He also envisions new technologies to empower consumers that are more powerful than the “do not track” setting on browsers – an injunction often ignored by websites. Read the report.