Everyday people use a device to scroll through their email, news, or social medias, and along these digital adventures we are being tracked. Our computer browsers and devices need to know some specific information about us to render pages in specific ways to create a single user experience across all devices. However, they don't "need" to save or track that data and thus, they create a digital 'fingerprint', or profile, of us.
Though originally used by security experts, browser fingerprinting is the process of collecting data from a user/user's digital experience(s) and compiling it into a profile about them. These can be things such as screen size, location, time spent on a page, and even amount of scrolling before changing pages or shutting off the device(s) screen. All of these actions, and more, can be used to make user experiences better and ads more relevant to the user or general data collection/tracking of a user.
Major companies like Youtube use this data to track a user and how they move across the site and determine the the best ways to keep them on it longer or get them to click ads.
According to Nick Briz of Mozila "Once it has been assembled, your digital fingerprint is persistently accurate. With recent developments in cross-browser fingerprinting, this technique is capable of successfully identifying users 99% of the time. That means even if you were to employ multiple recommended privacy precautions (masking your IP address through a VPN and deleting or blocking cookies) trackers can still use your digital fingerprint to re-identify and re-cookie your device when you visit a website." (3)
With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in place the general public has become more aware of their personal data in the world as the GDPR looks to protect any personal data that might be linked to an identifiable individual. "This definition not only covers all sorts of online identifiers (such as your computer’s MAC address, your networks’ IP address, or an advertising user ID in a cookie) but also less specific features — including the combination of browser characteristics that fingerprinting relies upon." (6)
Sad to say though that this does not seem to completely stop the digital fingerprint as every entity processing personal data can simply prove that they have grounds to legitimately do so... or have the user opt into cookies to be tracked.
This is my own fingerprint from Amiunique.org. As it shows I am currently on a MAC with a Chrome browser that I am logged into. These are popular things to use but, as of writing this, because of my usage and particular add extensions my "full fingerprint is unique among the 1083878 collected so far." (5)
In my debatable opinion, I don't care a lot if I am being tracked in my day-to-day usage. I know this is happening and the more I blend in with the crowd... the better. The more that my data shown to the world looks less unique and less like something that should be looked at in detail the happier I am... for now.