Browser Fingerprinting: What is it and how can it help publishers?
The best asset to any publisher or advertiser in the programmatic ecosystem is the user data. User data refers to crucial data points related to the diverse activity of the users while surfing the internet. Such data enables the publishers to undertake behavioral targeting campaigns to reap the benefits arising out of CPM ad campaign techniques.
However, with the advent of privacy laws like the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), collecting user data is no more a cakewalk. These laws require the publishers to reduce their reliance on cookies and techniques like browser fingerprinting to provide greater control to the users over their data.
While covert access to such data is still possible, let’s understand what browser fingerprinting is and why is it so beneficial from a publisher’s point of view.
What is Browser Fingerprinting?
Browser Fingerprinting a.k.a Device Fingerprinting is a technique used by websites to collect information about a user’s device via a web browser. It collects data related to the operating system of the device, screen resolution, active settings, time zone, language etc. A combination of such data collected by the web browser, in addition to data points like a user’s browsing history, website visits per day, social media visits etc. constitutes a digital fingerprint.
Browser fingerprinting works similar to an investigation at a crime scene where the police officials track the criminal using fingerprints on a crime scene. Similarly, through browser fingerprinting, websites collect stacks of data related to multiple users and match the same against the fingerprints of known users to establish a relation between them for marketing purposes.
Every web browser has an Application Programming Interface (API) which is used for collecting sensitive information related to the user. This information is particularly important to ad publishers as they can use the same to provide relatable advertisements focused on specific target groups.
Techniques of Browser Fingerprinting
Browser fingerprinting involves various techniques which enable a website to interact with the web browser of the user. Let’s take a look at some of these techniques.
1. Cookies & Tracking: One of the most commonly used techniques of browser fingerprinting is through cookies. Cookies are small packets of text files stored on a user’s device that provides information to various websites to enhance the user experience.
2. Canvas Fingerprinting: This is a fairly new method of developing the digital fingerprint. Under this technique, a unique fingerprint is stored in the HTML5 code of every website.
HTML5 is a coding language that is used to build websites. In this code, there’s an element known as ‘canvas’ that generates certain data, like the font size and the background colour settings of the visitor’s browser, on a website. This data, in turn, serves as the unique fingerprint of the visitor’s browser.
3. Device Fingerprinting: Device fingerprinting is a method of identifying attributes of a particular device and uses such information to further track the user activity around the web. This method identifies information like the operating system used by the device, the version of the web browser being used, the language settings in the browser and the device’s IP address.
Since certain attributes like the IP address of the device and the operating system of the device cannot be altered or reset frequently, device fingerprinting provides consistent data which can be used to identify, track and compare results over time.
Now that we know the various techniques which can be used to obtain a user’s digital fingerprint through the browser, let’s see how can it benefit publishers.
How does Browser Fingerprinting benefit publishers?
As stated earlier, the most valuable asset in the programmatic ecosystem is the user data.
Firstly, the specificity and the precision in the user data helps in identifying genuine users across the web. Any deviations can help in mitigating the risk of potential advertising fraud. Multiple impressions from a similar device, for example, helps the publishers in understanding the nature and the extent of a bot attack and early-stage detection of the same can safeguard the publisher from the loss of revenue.
Secondly, various publishers also engage in cross-site tracking by sharing their respective browser fingerprinting technology to collect specific information about the users like their browsing history, shopping preferences, etc. When combined with website cookies, it enhances the process of tracking a user based on different activities. This information can, then, be used to target different users accurately with relevant advertisements which boosts the revenue and acts as a win-win situation for both the publishers as well as the advertisers.