Digital Fingerprinting: Privacy Concerns And Accuracy


Digital fingerprinting is a form of forensic data storage. It entails converting arbitrarily large data sets into shorter bit strings. The resulting fingerprint can be used to identify the original data. A fingerprint can be used to identify people as well as objects. The method is quick and precise. However, there are privacy concerns.

A fingerprint tracking script (typically JavaScript) collects data from our browser and device when we visit a website. When this data is rendered, it is processed, hashed, and sent to a server for server-side storage. Because digital fingerprints are saved on the server, we cannot typically block them without taking significant steps, many of which harm our browsing experience. 


The accuracy of digital fingerprinting is a significant concern in law enforcement and the forensic science community. The accuracy of digital fingerprinting is essential because of the potential for false positives. Despite the numerous safeguards for fingerprint examiners, mistakes do occur. A recent study found that one in five examiners made a false positive. The study also found that a high percentage of false negatives occurred.

In recent years, computerized fingerprint-matching systems have improved in accuracy. Some of the best plans can match fingerprints more than 99 percent of the time. A recent Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology study compared 34 commercial systems for fingerprint-matching accuracy. It found that digital fingerprint check accuracy improved with the number of matching fingerprints. The accuracy of fingerprint matching increased significantly for two and four-finger matches.

Computerized Fingerprinting

Computerized fingerprinting is a way to identify individuals by matching their fingerprints with data. This process uses an algorithm to map an arbitrarily large data item into a smaller bit string that uniquely identifies the original data. It is beneficial in identifying people because fingerprints are unique to the person.

Computerized fingerprinting has several advantages over traditional fingerprinting methods. First, this new technology saves time and space. Fingerprints can now be transmitted through telephone lines to the computer system and processed in a fraction of the time. Second, this technology can be used in small communities that need more money to purchase electronic equipment. However, as the process becomes more widespread, the equipment prices will decrease.

Computerized fingerprinting is also quicker and easier to complete. A fingerprint receipt is valid five months after being processed, so a person doesn’t have to go through the process again. It’s an excellent choice for companies requiring fingerprinting for job applicants and those who don’t want to undergo extensive background checks.

Privacy Concerns

Digital fingerprinting raises privacy concerns and is regulated under the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. However, some companies use digital fingerprinting for non-advertising purposes, like preventing fraud. For example, online banks use fingerprints to identify fraudsters. This practice should be limited to legitimate purposes.

To comply with GDPR, companies must ensure that digital fingerprinting does not involve identifiable data. The GDPR defines personal data as any information used to identify an individual. A fingerprint is created by combining characteristics from a person’s browser. These include online identifiers and less specific features such as browser behavior.

Moreover, fingerprinting can be very reliable when enough information is available. For example, a study in France showed that one-third of all digital fingerprints could identify an individual. In a different study, researchers at Lehigh University created a fingerprinting technique that could identify 99 percent of internet users. Nevertheless, privacy advocates have expressed concerns about fingerprinting. Since fingerprinting does not allow for opt-outs or cookies, privacy advocates claim it is an abuse of personal information.


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