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How Your Username May Betray You 308

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-are-a-number-not-a-name dept.
An anonymous reader writes "By creating a distinctive username—and reusing it on multiple websites—you may be giving online marketers and scammers a simple way to track you. Four researchers from the French National Institute of Computer Science (INRIA) studied over 10 million usernames—collected from public Google profiles, eBay accounts, and several other sources. They found that about half of the usernames used on one site could be linked to another online profile, potentially allowing marketers and scammers to build a more complex picture the users."
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How Your Username May Betray You

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  • Uh... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anrego (830717) * on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:13PM (#35201192)

    Couldn't they already do this with cookies?

    In other news.. the gentleman wielding the running chainsaw could probably kick you really hard with those steel toe bootsand maybe even poke you in the eye!

  • by Palestrina (715471) * on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:22PM (#35201290) Homepage

    And the installed fonts, and the screen resolution and color depth and the dozens of other factors that combined allow you to be tracked.

    Try this web site for an idea of how these factors can (in combination) uniquely identify you: []

    I see that my browser is unique among the 1.4 million tested, with 20 bits of identifying information. Knowing my user name isn't going to compromise my privacy all that much more, especially compared to how Facebook screws your privacy every day.

  • by Ethereal.Visage (1990122) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:23PM (#35201300)
    Umm . . . obvious, per chance? It seems to me that this is sort of . . . common sensical. Many people (myself included among that set) use a common username across multiple sites for that very reason mentioned in the article. To enable others to track us via our username. Of course, the intended audience is not the scammers -- oh, sorry, "marketers" -- but rather fellow hackers. But it's a double-edged sword. Perform an action, and the consequences will arrive, knocking on the door in the middle of the night. Welcome to the world, people.
  • Re:Uh... (Score:4, Informative)

    by by (1706743) (1706744) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:35PM (#35201458)
    There was an article [] on Slashdot [] a while back about a clever project [] to track your browser regardless of cookie settings / IP address. Neat stuff.
  • Re:Uh... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Desler (1608317) on Monday February 14, 2011 @02:37PM (#35201480)

    this is potentially another way of tracking that few people would have thought about.

    Sure, if you're braindead. Did you really think that if you use a non-unique identifier across multiple sites that it couldn't be used to track you? That's about as 'duh' as it gets.