Privacy Issues raised by Web Browser Usage

Privacy Issues raised by Web Browser Usage

The World Wide Web (WWW) which is the de facto for access of resources on the Internet can be accessed through browsers. Browsers take many forms, from stand-alone browsers to applications-integrated browsers, and all access the internet. The Internet, short for Internetwork and popularly used interchangeably with the WWW, is accessed through technologies, hardware and software.

Web Browsers are software applications configured to access web resourses through web technologies (HTML, PHP, JaavaScript, etc).

As much as web browsers provide the advantage of accessing vast resources on the Internet, they pose privacy issues, some of which are;

a. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) retention – Web browsers store some of the information about the activities of a user, which can be used to personally identify someone, e.g., usernames and passwords stored offline often voluntarily.

b. Leaking of PII – Web browsers incorporate technologies such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) that are key in protecting data from unauthorized access. These features have to be shared between web browsers and websites for effective security. TLS/SSL secured websites are secure to access and use the HTTPS standard, but there is a fair share of websites that haven’t adopted the technology thus posing a great risk.

c. Cross-Device Tracking – Web browsers allow users to login for more efficient services. This efficiency can come at a cost however, if the use uses the same logins across their many devices as this besides identifying their personal devices can link PII, which is a great risk.

d. Malware – Web browsers have become key in facilitating cyber crimes through spread of file-attached malware that aim to paralyze a computer or steal sensitive data including PII, health data and financial data.

e. Temporary files threats – Web browsers by default store temporary files including cookies and history for efficient internet access, but these file are as well potential threats to privacy.

f. Web Storage threats – Modern browsers support web storage or DOM storage which involves storage of files or objects (temporary and semi-permanent) to better manage the browser’s efficiency while accessing the internet. Temporary objects are Session storage objects which store information about a user’s session on the browser but destroyed after the browser is closed, while semi-permanent objects are local storage objects which store user information with no expiry date. These objects are stored locally and are never sent to servers. These objects enhance the performance of the browser, but are potential threats to privacy as they contain PII and sensitive information.


Privacy Issues raised by Web Browser Usage
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