It is no secret that our online activities are being stalked. Whether it is the NSA, or our governments, or advertisers, there are lots of people and organization who take an interest in knowing what we do at the labyrinth of our web-browsers. However, at the same time we have organizations who care about our privacy. In order to make the internet more transparent, Mozilla, the popular free software foundation, developed a tool named “Collusion” last year. Collusion was released as an add-on which displays all your trackers and the number of connections we have established with various services while browsing the web.
Lightbeam for Firefox
The firm has now released Lightbeam, a successor to Collusion, which houses more features and detailed analysis of our trackers. With your permission, the add-on Lightbeam looks into your browsing history, and then analyzes the first and third-party services which your browser connects to.
This may sound not very critical, but when you look into how these things work it will start prevailing more sense. A 10 minute browsing session where you checked a few tech websites, local news, friend’s blog, and your social networking feeds can establish connections with tons of services.
Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla last year gave a talk at TED conference explaining how cookies track our activities. He shared a concern that most of us have here, he gave an example how so many websites and services had started stalking her 9 year old daughter, who uses the laptop for her school work.
Think about it, the internet knows everything about us, it knows our birthdate, it knows where we are going, it knows what we do, it knows our likes and preferences, coming to think of it, it holds all our data as well.
We don’t like being stalked. But the real life equivalent of what is happening to us on the web would be thousands of people always tracking us, following all of our trails and leads. Our privacy has been repeatedly compromised. In the image below, you can see blue and red dots spread all over. The blue dots are the websites you actually visited, and the red dots are the ones which are tracking your activities, almost all without your consent.
Lightbeam analyzes your connections, visualizes the growth of the relationships between the third and first party websites. You can also contribute to the foundation by anonymously sending over your Lightbeam data to help them analyze more of it. Lightbeam will soon be helping publishers understand how these things affect them and how to circumvent their way through it.
The tool is freely available to use, you can download it from here. Its source code is available on Github for anyone to test, tweak, hack and explore.