A pseudonymous profile is a collection of information about a particular computer user that identifies the user either by their computer's IP address or by a randomly-generated nickname. In general, a pseudonymous profile describes the particular interests, habits, and online activities that can be attributed to a specific user, or at least to a specific computer. Pseudonymous profiling is often used for Web site personalization, or for marketing purposes.
Although most organizations that create pseudonymous profiles assure users that they cannot be personally identified, some people have raised concerns. For example, if a user enters personal information at one Web site, it may become available to others. The user profile is linked to the IP address, which may be linked on another Web site to the user's personal information. Spyware objects such as Web bugs can be used to track users from one site to another. Some software products allow users to identify individual users of a multiple-user computer by analyzing data gathered about their keyboard usage, navigation patterns, and Web sites visited. The vendors of one such product, Predictive Networks, use click stream data, artificial intelligence (AI), and mathematical analysis to create complex pseudonymous profiles called Digital Silhouettes that can accurately distinguish specific users. Software products such as WebSafe and Anonymizer are designed to ensure anonymous Web surfing.