A new study by Mozilla researchers suggest that there is nothing like anonymity while collecting users’ data as claimed by different browsers

Tech companies often claim that all the data that they collect from users is ‘anonymous’ and cannot be used to identify users. Even when company’s like Xiaomi are grilled for collecting user data intrusively through its default browser’s incognito mode, they came up with the explanation that all this data is ‘anonymous’ or ‘aggregated’ and does not affect the users at all, as it cannot identify them as such. Other third-party browsers also say the same thing, but is that really true??

Apparently not! Three researchers from Mozilla conducted a study and collected data from around 35 million website visits to 660,000 unique domains.

As per this study, Mozilla researchers have established that the majority of people all over the world pose distinctive browsing habits, and because of this uniqueness, online advertisers can easily identify them by re-creating their accurate profiles.

This study is an extension of research that was conducted in 2012. It was revealed then that around 97% of the research participants had their own unique browsing habits and histories, which made them easy to be identified.

Through this current study, Mozilla researchers have found out that now 99% of browsing profiles were unique and different from each other. This has resulted in a far more accurate re-identification process. The re-identifying accuracy rate for data sets containing 50 domains of a user’s browsing history was around 50%, which is a good 12% higher from the research that was conducted in 2012.

When the data set was expanded to 150 domains instead of 50, the re-identification rate grew to over 80%. This means that companies that claim to keep users’ data anonymous are nothing short of lying because no user data is anonymous in this digital cloud. Almost every profile can be recreated and identified on the base of its browsing habits and history. And that is quite a scary thought! The only thing that the users can do is to keep bringing significant changes in their browsing habits, but of course, that is not really possible. People have their favorite sites and platforms to visit and they will continue to use them no matter what happens. But at least, no one should believe these false claims of different browsers and companies that their data is completely safe with them due to anonymity!

Photo: Getty

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