Online privacy is becoming an increasingly hot point of contest in the tech world. Companies want more of the user’s data while users want greater privacy. An excellent new tool that lets you keep track of all such sites which collect your data is Mozilla‘s Lightbeam for Firefox.
Many websites collect data from your machine when you visit them. This data may then be used to push tailored ads to you and can be used in many other ways. Many companies also sell data of this nature to retailers and other concerned parties to help them improve their understanding of customer trends, likes and habits.
Unfortunately, most of this data is collected without the user being actively aware. This may no longer be the case thanks to Lightbeam for Firefox. Lightbeam is a new add-on for the Firefox browser which lets you keep track of the third-party sites collecting your data. This is done in real-time so that any time during your browsing, you can fire up Lightbeam and see what sites are keeping tabs on you.
You can download Lightbeam for Firefox here and install it as an add-on. Once it is installed, it displays a tiny Lightbeam logo at the bottom right of your browser window. When you click the logo, it opens up a new tab titled ‘Lightbeam.’ Inside this tab is an entire interface which lets you visualize the flow of your data.
There are three standard visualization options in Lightbeam: Graph, Clock and List.
The Graph view lets you see the sites collecting your data in the form of tiny triangles and circles. Every site that is collecting data is represented by one of these icons and depending on the number of connections shared by a given site, the size of the icon may be small or big.
Each icon is linked to the icon denoting the user with a line. The line indicates that your machine’s interaction with the website involves a cookie. Moreover, you can identify individual sites from their favicons which are visible on the small triangles and circles.
The clock view lets you get a more analytic look at your online activity during the past 24 hours. It lets you see when exactly did you visit a given site as well as detailed information about what kind of data was gathered by that site. The interface is very interactive and user-friendly, letting you navigate all this analysis without any qualms.
The List view is the third visualization option offered by Lightbeam for Firefox. It lets you view all the data mentioned above in the form of lists. By navigating the lists, you can see detailed information about a site you have visited, the type of that site, access times, the number of shared connections from that site and other indicators. For the number-savvy folks, this is a far more effective way of noticing how different websites gather data from you and the extent of this data-aggregation.
In all, Lightbeam is an excellent tool because it lets you, in turn, track such websites which are tracking you and sneaking away your data. You can use the tool to identify such sites and if need be, block them from your browser.