Everyone has heard that Big Brother is tracking their navigation on the internet. Now users have a chance to find out who is doing the tracking.
advises that Firefox is the second most popular browser in use by web surfers. The owners are now introducing the Collusion add-on, which will allow users to monitor how their actions and movements are tracked and shared by various websites. It will show, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers.
The tool is currently in development. It tracks the websites visited by the user and also displays their known partners including ad companies and third parties. It then visualizes the flow of information as a "mesh-work of bubbles which represent the different websites".
As the user continues surfing, a pattern emerges which reveals that different popular websites are linked to the same data collectors, who are then building up their knowledge of the user's internet preferences and habits.
Ultimately this provides the companies with data on what type of advertising would best attract each user and to then target them accordingly with appropriate ads.
, which aims to share information on web surfers using its services, to build more accurate profiles for advertising. The policy was introduced on 1 March 2012 despite many objections from activists and also despite the fact that it may be illegal in some jurisdictions.
is another culprit, which learns about every visit to a particular web page by who "likes" the page.
Basically the amount of data collected by Google, Facebook and other websites is astounding. The general public is unaware of this to a great extent. Collusion aims to change this.
CEO Gary Kovacs says: “Collusion will allow us to pull back the curtain and provide users with more information about the growing role of third parties, how data drives most Web experiences, and ultimately how little control we have over that experience and our loss of data.”
The web-based company wants users of the new add-on to submit anonymous data on their surfing habits, from which they will build a database on who is doing the tracking and also how it is done.
This information will then be available to researchers, privacy activists and journalists who would subsequently monitor data-tracking practices and find possible abuse.
Once the beta period is over, the full version of Collusion will also work together with tools like TrackerBlock
to allow users to selectively hide from some trackers while allowing others to track them.
Not all tracking is bad. Many services rely on user data to provide relevant content and enhance the user's online experience. However, most tracking happens without the users' consent and knowledge. This is not a good thing - web surfers should be able to decide when, if and how they want to be tracked. Collusion will be a powerful tool to help users do just that.