Visualizing how a site like Facebook tracks you

I’ve been using a useful tool called ‘Collusion’ for the past couple of months which visualizes how websites and services are connected to each other and more importantly who these companies are who collect your data from tracking cookies and supercookies.

Collusions creater works for Mozilla who developed the Firefox browser. Collusion is a Firefox add-on, but it’s not available from the Mozilla add-ons respository. Strange you might say, but when you start using Collusions you’ll actually probably wonder why not as it’s not that intrusive – just that it highlights who is tracking you and from which websites. This got me thinking about about how many tracking cookies are needed to build up a unique picture of my website behaviour. Not many it seems.

What is Collusion?

Collusion uses dots to represent a domain which is connected with lines. It is these lines that visualize the connections between each site.Tracking domains are shown appropriately in red. You can see basic individual domain data on the right hand side of the screen when hovering over any dot. Closer inspection of the tracking domains (red dots), you will see they are getting data about you from multiple sites across the web. This provides advertisters for example with a clear picture of your online behaviour history across multiple websites thanks to the use of a cookie /supercookie. Worth reading, is my post on “Adobe Flash Supercookies”.

How to install Collusion:

To learn more about the author of Collusions:

You can also zoom in and out using the browser zoom as well as drag a dot across the screen – this was fun to watch. 🙂 What I really like about this visualization tool is that it works in real time. It is kind of spooky as you see the graph evolve in real time mapping your every website visit.

Facebook uses the tracking techniques discussed here and it also does a whole lot more too – take a look at a recent post of mine. The big question about website tracking – do you really care if you are being tracked? I doubt most web surfers actually care because they don’t know how invasive websites can be.

If you know what data websites collect, you probably would take action to control and manage that data. Your personal data wherever you publish it, is useful for advertisers and fraudsters alike, who can then build a comprehensive profile about you. The problem is most people don’t know what data websites collect on you and with that understand the associate risks.

Why not check out: to learn more about why you should protect your online privacy. You just might rethink about who is tracking you and take back some control. You might also be interested in reading more about the Tor Project if you value your online anonymity.

Safe surfing folks!

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