The identity of every Internet user can be easily revealed by following the fingerprints that they leave online, found two German researchers. Secrets and private identities can be exposed--such as someone's sexual or porn preferences or medications they use. The main offender turned out to be Web of Trust, a "safe surfing" plug-in.
The research, which involved setting up a fake marketing company and asking hundreds of companies to provide raw browsing data of Internet users, showed that the "anonymous" personas of millions of people could be decoded.
Some users can be easily identified by leaving a trail online, such as their Twitter username on some analytics page; for others, analyzing 10 of their visited URLs can be enough to determine their identity.
Big companies, such as Netflix, have already been accused and taken to court by customers whose identities had been exposed.
"If Internet users do not use any security tools, such as VPNs, they should realize that when they go online, nothing that they do on the Internet will remain private," said Marty P. Kamden, CMO of NordVPN. "Nobody can know when their private browsing history may be exposed and for what reason. That can seriously hurt their personal lives, their careers and even their physical safety--if they are, for example, a political dissident in a...