Fiber tapers provide a way to rapidly measure the spectra of many types of optical microcavities. Proper fabrication of the taper ensures that its width varies sufficiently slowly (adiabatically) along the length of the taper so as to maintain single spatial mode propagation. This is usually accomplished by monitoring the spectral transmission through the taper. In addition to this characterization method it is also helpful to know the taper width versus length. By developing a model of optical backscattering within the fiber taper, it is possible to use backscatter measurements to characterize the taper width versus length. The model uses the concept of a local taper numerical aperture to accurately account for varying backscatter collection along the length of the taper. In addition to taper profile information, the backscatter reflectometry method delineates locations along the taper where fluctuations in fiber core refractive index, cladding refractive index, and taper surface roughness each provide the dominant source of backscattering. Rayleigh backscattering coefficients are also extracted by fitting the data with the model and are consistent with the fiber manufacturer&\#x02019;s datasheet. The optical backscattering reflectometer is also used to observe defects resulting from microcracks and surface contamination. All of this information can be obtained before the taper is removed from its fabrication apparatus. The backscattering method should also be prove useful for characterization of nanofibers.