An add-on for Firefox that lets you see an visualization of which applications are tracking you and how they are connected, was just released at Mozfest.
Lightbeam is an application created by Mozilla, and previously known as Collision, that shows how both the website and third-party tools such as advertising and social sharing track and share your user data as you move from website to website.
Lightbeam is now live, and available to download. The way the add-on works is that, once installed, it analyzes the sites you visit and shows what tools are being used on the site. As you continue using the add-in, you'll be able to see the relationships between the various first and third party sites that are stored in your data.
As a part of Lightbeam, Mozilla is creating a "big-picture" view of Web tracking and of how first and third party sites are connected to each other. You can choose to share your data with the Lightbeam database to help the data gathering, though this is optional.
Discussing the new add-in on the Mozilla blog, Alex Fowler, lead privacy and public policy maker at Mozilla, comments:
"While revelations about government surveillance continue to stun people around the world, there's another area of online data collection with its own complicated transparency challenges that remains important to users. And that's the diverse range of third party companies that shape so much of our online experiences today from advertising to social sharing to personalization. Third parties are an integral part of the way the Internet works today. However, when we're unable to understand the value these companies provide and make informed choices about their data collection practices, the result is a steady erosion of trust for all stakeholders."
In this video Alex Fowler and Mitchell Baker, Co-founder of Mozilla, show Lightbeam in action and explain how it is envisaged as a teaching tool for its users and a learning tool for all of us by proving a "behind the scenes" insight into the way the web operates.
Lightbeam for Firefox is still in “an early stage of development”. The code is on Github and available for the Mozilla community to hack, expand and improve.