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Lightbeam allows you to ‘track those who track you online’
SHAWN HELTON 21stcenturywire.com When your browser landed on this article, it didn’t just talk to the friendly servers at washingtonpost.com. It also made contact with Chartbeat, a company that helps us understand where else you’ve been on the Web, and how you’re interacting with the site. Your browser also connected to a personalized news applet called Trove, various marketing plug-ins and a social bookmarking service run by a company known as AddThis. The same is true of the vast majority of sites you’ll visit today. Third-party trackers are watching practically everything you do online. Some are innocuous in that they help enhance your Web experience. Others are really annoying — things that you, as a consumer, probably wouldn’t want looking over your shoulder. To help you see which sites are sending your information to third parties, the folks at Mozilla have designed a way to visualize these trackers. It’s called Lightbeam. (Unfortunately, the tool works only on Mozilla’s Firefox browser). When you launch it, it shows up blank — an empty canvas waiting for your browsing history to turn it into a detailed online portrait of you. From there, it quickly becomes something of a digital Jackson Pollock. Sites you visit appear as a white circle. Associated plug-ins branch out from that circle as white triangles. Here’s what happens when you visit Nordstrom.com, for instance: (Mozilla) And here’s what it looks like when you’ve visited more than a few sites: (Mozilla) In just the 10 sites that I visited over the course of that session you see above, my browser made contact with over 100 third-party sites, some of which had relationships with each other and were likely passing my data back and forth. It’s an engrossing visualization of a part of the Internet people rarely see. There’s a whole ecosystem of trackers that latches on to you in the same way that woodsmoke or the smell of food can give away where you’ve been in the physical world recently. to read more click here: 21stcenturywire.com
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