Mozilla, creators of the popular Firefox web browser, have released an update to their experimental plugin Collusion, which aims to make people more aware of just how much their every online action is tracked, and that data shared between a truly worrying number of shadowy third parties.
‘Not all tracking is bad. Many services rely on user data to provide relevant content and enhance your online experience. But tracking can happen without the user’s knowledge. That’s not okay for some. It should be you who decides when, how and if you want your browsing data to be shared. explains Mozilla.
Now called Lightbeam, the plugin’s default view visualises the relationships between the websites you visit and those who track you using them, as a real-time graph that tells you at a glance ‘how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers’.
The amount of information available can be overwhelming, so the ability to toggle datasets on and off is invaluable to making sense of it all.
You can also view the data in ‘clock view’, which shows your connections over the last 24 hours…
…and in List view, which provides additional options for drilling deeper into the data.
Most people are unlikely to use the plugin continuously, although as a wake-up call for why you should be running privacy enhancing plugins in your browser, it is an eye-opener that everyone should at least try.
However, the plugin has gained considerable accolades from the tech community, and interest in the press. Tia Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus said,
‘Mozilla’s latest Lightbeam tool represents a step forward in the fight for greater openness across the internet. We are delighted to see that the industry is waking up to the demand for a more user-determined internet experience. It is crucial that web users are educated on their online rights and informed about what is actually happening when they spend time online. This ensures that they are the ones in control of their online experience’
Mozilla itself said it sees the tool as being useful to ‘researchers, journalists, and others’ in order for them to better understand how data is tracked on the web,
‘We recognize the importance of transparency and our mission is all about empowering users — both with tools and information’.
Then CEO of Mozilla Gary Kovaks introduces the Collusion plugin at a 2012 TED talk