Mozilla releases add-on to reveal online data tracking

With a new version (1.0.2) released on Wednesday, Mozilla has once again put the spotlight on its Collusion add-on that aims to show users which first and third parties are tracking them as they surf the Internet.

In addition to several improvements, the add-on also has a new name – Lightbeam – that, according to Alex Fowler, Mozilla’s head of global privacy and public policy, describes the concept better.

Collusion was first launched in February 2012 but has failed to get much attention from users.

Mozilla is betting on the fact that Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying and the collaboration with Internet companies have raised users’ awareness of their Internet activity being followed by a number of parties, and is hoping that they will find Lightbeam a welcome addition to their Firefox browser.

The information collected by every single Lightbeam add-on in use can be shared – if the users decides to – with the Lightbeam database, and this will help create a more accurate and bigger picture of what connections are made each time users visit a website. Those users who chose to share this data can rest assured that their IP addresses will not be logged, and that the information they share will be aggregated anonymously.

As Mozilla pointed out, some of these connections are beneficial to users, but most of them might not be. In any case, most users are unaware that these connections are even made, and that it something that Mozilla intends to change.

Martin Brinkmann has a more in-depth report on how the new version of the add-on works and has been improved.

Mozilla has made available all of the add-on’s code on GitHub, and has invited coders to hack it, expand it, and improve it.

“Our focus in on building a web based on openness and transparency. Our dream is a world where people know more about how the web works and take control of their lives online. We need a posse of people to get involved and make that happen,” said Mozilla’s executive director Mark Surman.

Lightbeam will be initially available only for desktop browsers.

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