Fingerprint Technology | 4 mins read

Fingerprint Technology- How Digital Fingerprinting Works

fingerprint technology how digital fingerprinting works
Lauren Christiansen

By Lauren Christiansen

As the amount of online content increases, so does the frequency of media sharing and uploading. Online users frequently tweet, retweet, post videos, and share memes without knowing where they originated. The person who originally created the video or photo is often forgotten along the way.

Without some sort of technology that identifies the original content creator, it would be impossible to prevent copyright infringement, fraud, and theft. Fortunately, Google utilizes fingerprinting technology to identify and track a user's internet activity and prevent content from being shared illicitly.

Fingerprinting technology has revolutionized the way in which a person's identity is tracked and traced. Here we'll discuss what digital fingerprinting is, how it works, and the ways it can be utilized both online and in the workplace.

Watermarking vs. Fingerprinting

Digital fingerprints and watermark fingerprints are terms that are sometimes used interchangeably, but are actually very different.

Watermark fingerprinting is a technique that allows an individual to add a visible marking to an existing digital file or video.

Watermarking is utilized to identify who created a particular piece of content online, so content creators can track their individual assets. It discourages individuals from taking a photo or video from one website and then using it for their own purposes without acknowledging its source.

Digital fingerprinting provides a better alternative to restrict the spread of copyrighted material. The DNA, or makeup of a file or video, can be recognized immediately by a computer program.

This program is smart enough to identify any unlicensed material and filter it out. Think of digital fingerprints as a red flag alerting a computer system that a particular set of content belongs to a particular individual.

Watermarking technology only tells internet users that a piece of content belongs to someone else. Pirates can still sometimes share watermarked videos, and the watermark itself can be cropped out to hide the creator's identity.

Digital fingerprinting technology is a more secure identification system because it automatically prevents users from wrongfully passing off others' material as their own.

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Digital Fingerprinting Technology

Fingerprinting software identifies a piece of content and relates it to an external database, or an external collection of information that is not directly related to the computer software program.

Think of police officers who take a fingerprint from a crime scene and then compare it to a fingerprint database of existing criminals to see if there's a match. In essence, that's how fingerprinting technology works.

Fingerprinting technology software quickly scans through a piece of media and picks out tiny portions of it that are unique to that particular piece of content. A tiny portion might be the exact pitch of a singer's voice at a 30 second mark in a video, or a handful of pixels that make up a man's face in a photo.

Much like detectives piecing together a crime scene, computer software systems can utilize tiny pieces of data as clues and then make a digital fingerprint out of this information. This is how information is tracked across the internet. It also protects users from having their content shared without their permission.

Digital Fingerprinting & Your Identity

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Digital fingerprinting can also trace a piece of content to an individual person's computer. IP addresses are unique numbers attached to every computer on the internet that identify an individual's personal computer.

Digital fingerprinting technology utilizes IP addresses to show who a person's internet service provider is and see what country they live in. Digital fingerprinting software also identifies users by login identities, as many users frequently utilize the same login identity across multiple websites. It can also identify a person by noting the operating system installed on a compute utilized, such as Mac or Windows.

The lesson is that nobody's online identity is completely private. There are multiple ways to trace a user and find out where they come from. Though it's jarring to think online privacy is a myth, it's also important to remember that this is how theft and fraud are prevented.

Fingerprinting Technology in the Workplace

Fingerprinting technology is not only utilized online to track and trace a person's identity. It can also be used within a work setting.

Biometric time clocks are utilized in the workplace, in place of punch cards and timesheets, to track employee attendance. Utilizing a biometric scan of a unique identifier, like a fingerprint, allows only the individual employee to clock in/out. This negates one employee doing a fellow employee a favor by punching in if he/she is not physically present to work, thus preventing time theft.

Biometric technology works by implementing the same type of process that online digital fingerprinting technology does. Software identifies a user through a piece of data (the fingerprint) and then remembers this information in order to confirm a person's identity in the future (when they clock in next time).

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Purpose of Digital Fingerprinting Technology

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Some of the reasons for utilizing digital fingerprinting technology include-

  • Prevent Copyright Infringement Protects private property by identifying content creator
  • Gives Control to Copyright Owners Content creators can determine who is allowed to utilize their content.
  • Prevents Frivolous Lawsuits Prevents content creators from suing other users or Google for uploading their content without permission
  • Track Pirates and Hackers - Identifies content creators and prevents others from utilizing their work
  • Helps Law Enforcement Law enforcement can track and identify criminals through their online activity
  • Used by Employers Employers can utilize biometric time clocks as a timekeeping device that tracks an employee's identity

Effectiveness of Digital Fingerprinting Technology

Though digital fingerprinting technology is highly effective, it can't prevent all forms of theft and copyright violations. It doesn't stop all peer-to-peer sharing, or the process of transferring files from one computer to another by utilizing various file-sharing networks.

However, as more people are online, the amount of available data that can be utilized to trace a person's identity increases. As recognition systems and fingerprinting technologies continue to improve and expand, sites with user-generated content will be easier to maintain. As we move into the next generation, the more capable digital recognition technology will become.

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