The onset of the digital age has meant that our every move is now being recorded and analysed. As technology evolves, so do the methods employed to track and identify users across the vast expanse of the internet.

One such method that has garnered both praise and controversy is device fingerprinting — a technique used to create unique digital signatures for the devices we use daily. It boasts a myriad of applications ranging from enhancing security to targeted advertising.

Whether you’re a curious user wanting to protect your digital footprint or a business looking to leverage this technology, understanding the pros and cons of device fingerprinting is essential.

What Is Device Fingerprinting?


Device fingerprinting is a method used to identify and track unique devices, such as computers, smartphones, and tablets, based on a combination of software and hardware.

This identification process basically creates a “fingerprint” for each device — which can be used for security, fraud detection, and targeted advertising. It can also be implemented with other tracking techniques to build a comprehensive digital profile of a device’s online activities.

Device fingerprinting has shown to be a more reliable form of identifying and tracking devices online. This practice was conceived as an improvement to cookies because cookies can be easily removed or deleted from a browser.

A cookie is a piece of data from a website that is stored within a user’s web browser that the website can retrieve at a later time. They help that website remember information about your visit

Device fingerprinting is the next best alternative in providing a more consistent way of tracking a user’s online activities since they are less likely to change operating systems or fiddle with their IP addresses.

How Does Device Fingerprinting Work?

Device fingerprinting involves a series of steps that serve to gather information on a user’s device to compile a unique profile out of it towards the end.

  1. Collection of Information: Information is collected on a device when it connects to a network or visits a website. This can include:
    • User-Agent String: This is a string of text that includes details about the device’s operating system, browser, and version.
    • IP Address: The unique numerical address assigned to a device on the internet.
    • Browser Plugins: Information about browser plugins and extensions installed on the device.
    • Language Preferences: The preferred language of the device.
    • Hardware and Software Characteristics: Details about the device’s hardware, such as CPU type and number of cores, as well as software settings.
    • Cookies and Local Storage: Information stored by websites on the device’s browser.
  2. Fingerprint Generation: The collected information is then processed and combined to create a unique profile or “fingerprint” for the device. This fingerprint is a representation of the device’s unique characteristics.
  3. Comparison and Tracking: The generated fingerprint is then compared to a database of known fingerprints. The device is recognised when a match is found and its behaviour can be tracked over time. If the fingerprint is not found, a new entry can be created in the database.

To understand more about what device fingerprinting is and how it works, refer to our previous article here

What Are The Pros & Cons of Device Fingerprinting?

Device fingerprinting is a method used to collect information about a user’s device, such as their computer or smartphone, to create a unique identifier. This identifier can be used for various purposes, including online tracking, fraud prevention, and personalization. Here are the pros and cons of device fingerprinting:


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  1. Enhanced Security: Device fingerprinting can be used for fraud detection and prevention. The tracking of devices allows for much ease in identifying and blocking suspicious activities, such as account takeover attempts or fraudulent transactions.
  2. Personalisation: Online platforms can use device fingerprinting to personalise user experiences. For example, they can tailor content or recommendations based on a user’s device and browsing history.
  3. User Authentication: Device fingerprinting can be implemented into multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an additional layer of verification. If a device’s fingerprint matches what is expected, it can help confirm a user’s identity.
  4. Cross-Device Tracking: Businesses can use device fingerprinting to track user behaviour across multiple devices which allow for more targeted and effective advertising campaigns.
  5. No Cookies Required: Device fingerprinting can work even when users disable cookies in their browsers, unlike traditional tracking methods.


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  1. Privacy Concerns: Collecting information about a user’s device without their explicit consent can be seen as invasive. Users may feel that their online activities are being monitored without their knowledge or consent.
  2. Inaccuracies In Results: Device fingerprints can change over time due to software updates, hardware upgrades, or other factors. Which, in turn, can lead to false positives/negatives in fraud detection and personalisation efforts.
  3. User Anonymity Compromised: Device fingerprints combined with other data sources, can potentially compromise the anonymity of users online. This can be seen as a concern for individuals who want to maintain their online privacy.
  4. Ethical and Legal Issues: It may raise ethical and legal questions, especially when it comes to consent, data protection laws (e.g., GDPR), and potential misuse of collected data.
  5. Prone To Evasion: Some users employ tactics to deliberately evade device fingerprinting, which can lead to inaccurate results. This may pose an issue for fraud detection systems down the line.
  6. Incompatibility With Hardware & Software: Device fingerprinting may not work effectively on all devices or browsers and can potentially exclude certain users from services or features.

Bottom Line

As with any technology, device fingerprinting has both advantages and disadvantages. While its valuable role in security, personalisation, and advertising purposes cannot be understated, it must be used carefully and transparently to address the concerns related to privacy, accuracy, and ethical considerations. Users’ consent and data protection regulations should be taken into account when implementing device fingerprinting techniques.

TrustDecision is a leading provider of device fingerprinting solutions designed to strike the right balance between device identification and user privacy. TrustDecision’s unparalleled risk identification capabilities make it the ultimate comprehensive protector for businesses across many industries.

While device fingerprinting is an innovative new technique for device security, it is not infallible. This is why it is important for users to understand its advantages and disadvantages to make a more informed decision about which device fingerprinting technique suits their needs. To learn more about the 8 best device fingerprinting solutions in 2023 and their respective pros & cons — read their article here.