Panopticlick Browser Ident-Key You Didn't Know You Had

Panopticlick is a unique website that pulls the information (that you didn't know you had) about your computer that all websites can see, and then display it for you. Panopticlick tells you how unique your computer is, based on its configuration, which provides the equivalent of a device fingerprint.

When you visit a website, you are allowing that site to access a lot of information about your computer's configuration. Combined, this information can create a kind of fingerprint — a signature that could be used to identify you and your computer. Some companies are already using technology to try to identify individual computers. But how effective would this kind of online tracking be?

EFF is running an experiment to find out. Panopticlick will anonymously log the configuration and version information from your operating system, your browser, and your plug-ins, and compare it to our database of many other Internet users' configurations. Then, it will give you a uniqueness score — letting you see how easily identifiable you might be as you surf the web.

So, I visited the Panopticlick site on my trusty laptop, and here is my result:


(The author's Panopticlick result)

This means that I am very effectively "fingerprinted" when I surf the web. Great.

Philip K. Dick (who else?) wrote about the ident-key in his 1964 book The Penultimate Truth which not only identified the person, but every intellectual source material that person had ever accessed:

"Your ident-key, please," the ruling monad of the archives buzzed. He slid his key into the slot; it registered, and now the ruling monad, after consulting its memory bank, knew and remembered every source item he had ever utilised, and in what sequence; it comprehended the entire pattern of his formal knowledge.

From the archives' standpoint, it now knew him without limit, and so it could declare - or so he hoped - the next point on the graph of his growing, organic, mentation-life. The historic development of him as a knowing entity.
(Read more about the ident-key)

Also, for those who enjoy word origins, "panopticlick" appears to be the mating of Panopticon and "mouse click". A Panopticon is a circular prison designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1785; the idea is that all prisoners could be observed at all times in their cells from a central guard office by means of simple optics available at the time.

Visit the Panopticlick website and see how unique your device fingerprint is; thanks to Frolix_8 and Metafilter.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/28/2010)

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