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Fingerprinting, sometimes also referred to as “Device Fingerprinting”, is a technology used to uniquely identify smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Although it was intially developed to prevent online fraud, fingerprinting has been largely used by mobile advertisers and publishers. They target and track users and ads in a similar way to browser cookies in the last years.

Whenever a smartphone, tablet or other mobile devices connect to the internet, they broadcast information about their properties and settings.

Some of them are

  • What browser plug-ins and add-ons are installed
  • Mobile operator
  • Screen resolution and colour depth
  • Time zone
  • What system fonts are installed
  • Software versions including flash and Java

Afterwards, these individual bits of device information can be combined to unique profiles – or fingerprints. They can be tracked as they move across the internet. Since it allows the identification of mobile devices without cookies or a mobile ID, fingerprinting is a serious alternative for advertisers to uniquely identify users and devices.

Consumers become more mobile in their online behavior, but cookies face big resistance because of measures to protect privacy. Fingerprinting is based on unchangeable information which will give it a more and more important role in mobile advertising.