Watching them watching us

Collusion is a plug-in for FireFox that visualises the sites that track your movements on the web – and then displays the results for you as a directed graph. Each node represents one particular web-site, each edge a “tracking through” relationship. After installation, collusion summarizes the data on the trackers. After a bit of the usual browsing you might be in for a bit of a surprise as you can almost see your digital footprint grow in real-time. No worries, it just displays the data that is gathered by companies on you, so it helps to get a better idea what your rights to electronic self-determination might entail.

Privacy Policy: When you’re using the add-on, we collect sites you visit solely to show you how they’re connected. We don’t keep them and don’t give away the information to anyone except you.

It is quite educational to see what the central nodes are – google of course, as you might expect, is one of them. But ever heard of ScoreCardResearch?

See also the collusion blog for more background info and links to the (open source) code – additional references are lifehacker.com: “Collusion for Firefox Shows You Who’s Tracking You on the Web In Real Time” and (german) heise.de: “Add-On für Firefox visualisiert Webseiten-Tracking” (Permalink)

Some technical notes on the installation: First you might want to update your firefox (doesn’t work for older versions, so updateing might be a good idea anyway, just to plug some security holes) and then you install the add-on. What you should see is the “COLL_USI_ON” icon in the lower-right corner.

It was all pretty straightforward. However, IF, like me, you have a custom theme setup on firefox with a dark background, you might actually not see anything at first. Obviously, black on black isn’t easy to read. So in my case, just switching back to the standard theme helped 😉

Finally, the TrackerList on privacyChoice gives some info on the companies behind some of the nodes. Have fun!

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  1. #1 by cistronic on 2012/03/28 - 15:51

    Stylish, Beautiful, and thought-provoking:
    “Information technology has become a ubiquitous presence. By visualizing the processes that underlie our interactions with this technology we can trace what happens to the information we feed into the network.”

  2. #2 by cistronic on 2012/04/18 - 08:54

    A 7 day series on the “guardian” on the Battle for the Internet, with an article (day seven) “the end of privacy”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/series/battle-for-the-internet

  3. #3 by cistronic on 2012/04/19 - 10:41

    The end of Internet privacy
    “Microsoft and Facebook, are key supporters of this bill that lets corporations share all user activity and content with US government agents without needing a warrant in the name of cyber-security — nullifying privacy guarantees for almost everyone around the world, no matter where we live and surf online”
    http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_cispa_corporate_global/?fp

  4. #4 by cistronic on 2012/04/19 - 14:52

    Also part of the Guardian’s seven-day special series on the “Battle for the internet”:
    Tim Berners-Lee: demand your data from Google and Facebook
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/apr/18/tim-berners-lee-google-facebook

  1. Keeping Score: Brand internet tracking | Stephanie Pyrzynski

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