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a regular pattern of behaviour when using the Internet which can be used to uniquely identify an Internet user
'Clickprints thus join a plethora of data that can be used to identify us while we're online.'The Guardian 28th September 2006
'One possible way to make clickprinting much more effective would perhaps be to monitor the methods people use to get from one page to another. Some people like to click a button to submit a form. Others prefer the enter key …'Slashdot 29th September 2006
When you surf the web, do you find yourself doing it at a specific time of day, usually for about the same amount of time, and regularly clicking on certain web pages in particular? If so, even though you might feel totally anonymous as you sit in front of the computer, this unique pattern of web-browsing behaviour can be used to identify you – it is your clickprint.
A clickprint is an individual pattern of Internet surfing which is based on actions such as the number of pages viewed per session, the number of minutes spent on each page, the pages visited (is BuzzWord part of your clickprint?), and the specific time or day of the week that web pages are viewed. Recent research suggests that this 'individual browsing behaviour' can be used to distinguish one Internet user from another, with between three and 16 Internet sessions needed to identify a person's unique clickprint.
the idea of clickprints in fact has a very worthwhile application in the prevention of online fraud
Though to some of us this might sound a bit like a 'Big Brother' scenario, a fundamental invasion of privacy as we go about our business on the web, the idea of clickprints in fact has a very worthwhile application in the prevention of online fraud. For instance, if someone signs in with an existing user's login, but then appears to have a different clickprint, this could be an indication that a user's ID has been stolen.
The derived noun clickprinting refers to the process of monitoring individual patterns of Internet use. Clickprinting has an inevitable application in marketing, giving advertisers specific information about the surfing habits of particular users.
The term clickprint was coined by Balaji Padmanabhan, professor of information management at the University of Pennsylvania, and Catherine Yang, professor in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, who first used the expression in a research paper published in September 2006.
Click refers of course to the clicking function of a computer mouse, and clickprint takes inspiration from the word fingerprint. This is the unique pattern of lines made by a person's fingertip when they touch something, which is often used in criminal investigations as a way of identifying a particular individual.
This article was first published on 5th March 2007.