New Firefox add-on allows you to see how, when and where sites are tracking your browsing history

By on October 25, 2013, 11:00 AM

We all know that many sites will use any method they can to track us, whether it's for legitimate reasons that make our experience a better one or for evil reasons like advertising data or just keeping an eye on us.

That tracking data can become woven in a large web of connected sites and now Mozilla has released a new add-on for its Firefox browser that will visualize this process as it happens, logging sites that are tracking you and how those entities are connected to other services/tools.

The new add-on is called Lightbeam, it functions as a Firefox plugin and will put a name to the faces that are tracking your browsing history. The add-on, which is based on the experimental Collusion extension, will not only track first party sites but it also allows you to see third party tools and other forms of tracking technology connected to those sites.

It provides three view modes to display the data, including Graph, Clock and List. It will allow the user to examine tracking data over space and time. More importantly it will identify where they are connecting to your internet activity and provide ways for users to "engage with this unique view of the Web." From there, the add-on also has some sharing options where users can feed their data (or parts of it) into the Lightbeam database, which is attempting to piece together a more global picture of how different tracking elements work online.

Lightbeam is available now for Firefox. So far user reviews have been positive with a 4 out of 5 rating on Mozilla's download page. It requires Firefox 19 or later (current version is 24.0), head over to Lightbeam's compatibility page for more information.

User Comments: 11

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Guest said:

I wonder if is will be able to track back to the NSA.

1 person liked this | SmilingKnight said:

And I wonder if the data I entries I send to the database are personally identifiable, including IP address. And who gets to see besides Lightbeam (hint: affiliates).

Guest said:

This may be a new paradigm. It would be refreshing to have transparency on the trackers. Hopefully this will become a pervasive tool that rides on all browsers

Guest said:

Recent news this is not. I have been using Mozilla's original version of this for a year and a half. It is good to see that it is updated with more functions, however.

psycros psycros said:

As long as you don't upload your results to the Lightbeam database you shouldn't be giving them any metrics they can sell back to the ad mongers. Of course there's every chance that at least some of that data will be uploaded regardless. Its amazing how devious the spyware industry has become.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Add-ons like this have been around since Firefox 3.6 as I was using them! (Yes Techspot, I was surprised as to how many servers your website links to xD ) I am always amazed by the amount of connections your computer makes browsing the internet with servers that really are nothing to do with the website you are actually visiting.

Guest said:

I tried an addon like this a couple years ago. It turned me onto Ghostery, which I have now ditched in favor of Disconnect Me in combination with Adblock Plus and EasyPrivacy list. Also using Startpage for searching Google privately. From there I got a zero log VPN, and I have finally gotten rid of all my Proprietary Software in favor of safer Open Source software.

No doubt corporations and governments (which are becoming the same thing) will continue evolving their ways of tracking and spying on people, but you don't have to make it easy on them. Stand up for your right to privacy.

tomkaten tomkaten said:

1. Install Adblock Edge.

2. Add Easylist, Fanboy's Social Blocking list.

3. Add EasyPrivacy filter list.

4. Marvel at the two or three sites that your webpage now connects to

Just for kicks, disable Adblock completely, reset Lightbeam's data, refresh the page bypassing cache (CTRL+F5) and enjoy the difference.

Guest said:

I see this being cool to see for about a day for its users, and then forgotten. I'm already no longer interested.

Guest said:

@ tomkaten : Install Adblock Plus as it is most current. Then if you want disable allowing non-intrusive advertising (in Firefox) via Tools > Addons > Adblock Plus Preferences > Filter Preferences > uncheck bottom left.

Or after install, the load up page will give you a link to immediately disable non-intrusive advertisements.

JC713 JC713 said:

Seems like a great add-on.

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