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Mozilla add-on shows where you are being tracked online

Websites are leaving cookies on your computer, tracking and analyzing your behavior and while it can lead to a better user experience in some cases, data privacy is currently a hot issue. Mozilla is seeking to educate and empower users with their Collusion add-on.

Taking control of your data

Technologist Andrew Lewis’ calling card is his famous quote that people now wear proudly on shirts across the globe, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold,” addressing web data and privacy.

Mozilla (Firefox) cites Lewis’ sentiment as part of their demonstration of their add-on, “Collusion” which is a rel-time visualization of which websites track your behavior online.

The demo starts out with a visualization of what happens when you go to imdb.com – three red circles pop up connected to the central grey circle which is imdb. The red dots are advertising sites that have created cookies in your browser and now track your behavior on imdb.com, according to Mozilla. In the add-on and during the demo, users simply hover over any of the circles to learn more about them.

Next, Mozilla shows what happens when a user visits the New York Times, demonstrating that there is overlap between which ad companies sites use, so after visiting imdb.com and the NYT, it becomes apparent that they are connected, so advertisers are now tracking your behavior across multiple sites and gathering data on your actions. “That’s valuable data for their market research,” Mozilla notes.

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The company says, “If you haven’t realized it yet, companies are tracking you across most of the sites you visit daily on the web. It’s quite likely that these companies know more about you than your government. Some of them might even know more about you than your best friends.”

Collusion is about choice

Behavior tracking isn’t always bad, sometimes it makes for a unique user experience, or an improved experience over time, but with web privacy issues at the center of international headlines, many users simply want to know who is tracking them as a measure of taking control of their data.

Mozilla notes, “Through our work with the Ford Foundation, we’ll be building outreach campaigns to help people understand online data tracking — both the benefits and the issues — so they can make their own choices about how they want to be tracked (or choose not to be tracked at all).”

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