One morning after installing Lightbeam—a free Firefox add-on designed to help users visualize which companies are tracking them online—Mozilla’s Privacy and Public Policy Lead Alex Fowler went through his daily Internet routine. After visiting just four websites, the new feature revealed he had actually interacted with 120 different companies online.
Lightbeam, which Mozilla introduced over the weekend, offers several visual representations of how different websites and applications are following your online activity. You can see who’s tracking you at any moment with a graphic that re-imagines the Internet as swarm of apps chasing the user, as well as a Clock view displaying daily highlights and a detailed List view.
The new add-on is a successor to Collusion, which Mozilla introduced in 2011 and sat in an open browser window, tracking the cookies that track us across the Internet and showing users when they were being targeted. With Lightbeam, Mozilla, hopes to offer a more powerful and dynamic way to shine a light on a facet of life on the Web.
“It’s not necessarily good or bad,” says Fowler. “I think the bad that we’re focusing on is the lack of awareness, the lack of understanding.”
To start using Lightbeam, just download and install the plugin via the source link below and starting browsing. You’ll also have the option to share what you learn with a central database that hopes to map out a larger image of how the internet is connected. The new Mozilla add-on is available through Github as well for anyone interested in adding their own improvements to Lightbeam.
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