This article was originally published on March 2, 2012.
Mozilla, creator of Firefox, has launched a new add-on for its browser that allows users to have a view of which websites are “watching” them online as they browse every day. Collusion, is an official Mozilla Firefox add-on developed by Atul Varma. Add-on was unveiled at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference this week by Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs.
Collusion displays in real-time what sites are tracking you and how they link to other sides. Once Collusion is installed, on hitting the Collusion icon, it will open a new tab displaying how the sites you opened currently are being tracked by the various websites.
“Collusion is an experimental add-on for Firefox and allows you to see all the third parties that are tracking your movements across the Web. It will show, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers.”
After you’ve installed Collusion from Mozilla’s Firefox add-ons gallery you have to enable it by clicking on Tools>Add-ons>Extensions and then click “Enable” next to Collusion. After that you should see a small red circle on the bottom right of your browser.
Now, just start browsing the Web as you normally would. To see the tracking graph build up, click on the Collusion icon in the bottom right of your screen. This will open a separate browser tab with your Collusion graph.
The glowing circles represent sites you have visited and each line growing out of that circle is attached to a cookie the site or its advertisers have placed on your browser. Red circles are behavioral tracking cookies, and gray circles represent non-behavioral tracking cookies. But, Mozilla says, those gray sites may still be tracking you across the web.
Just hover over any of the sites you’ve visited and Collusion will highlight only the cookies connected with that site. As you browse, the graph is instantly updated and will continue to expand.
Mozilla plans to build a database of offenders and make data available to privacy campaigners. With the full version of Collusion, users can opt-in to sharing your anonymous data in a global database of web tracker data. The data is to help researchers, journalists and others analyze and explain how data is tracked on the web.
Mozilla is among several companies that have become very focused on implementing do-not-track technology. Another Firefox and internet explorer add-on TrackerBlock lets you to block companies tracking you on the internet. When the same sites rely on the same tracking cookies, advertisers are able to effectively track users across the sites they visit building up valuable data for market research.
Mozilla says that all tracking data Collusion collects is stored locally on your computer and never leaves your possession. You can reset the graph at any time to delete Collusion’s database. The add-on also features an export function. The smaller tracking sites will detect if you have that add-on installed and asks you to stop the add-on for that particular site.
Tracking is the only way a site can make a living off the content that they produce. It would be great to make it easy for a website creator to be transparent . We hope the future will lead to an entirely different business model for the web where these sites that deliver really good content can still make money, users still get content, and user privacy is preserved.