Ok, this one comes from the “I know, that you know, that I know” file. We are all pretty much aware that we are being tracked online. What we don’t fully know is just how much information different online and offline entities have and what their intentions are with that data. I believe that in the vast majority of cases the tracking is INTENDED to be completely harmless and is used for marketing purposes. I say intended only because all of that personal data could end up in the wrong hands as well if it is not being guarded well etc etc.
That said the folks at Mozilla have created a Firefox browser add-on called Collusion. Nice job naming it something that immediately conjures up a negative feeling. But hey, negativity sells in the online world.
Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs took the TED stage Tuesday morning to introduce Collusion, a Firefox browser add-on that lets you track who’s tracking you across the web for behavioral targeting purposes.
Collusion looks to offer more transparency to users by creating a visualization of how your data is being spread to different companies as you navigate the web. Each time it detects data being sent to a behavioral tracker, it creates a red (advertisers), grey (websites) or blue dot on the visualization and shows the links between the sites you visit and the trackers they work with.
I immediately went to the demo page and looked around. I also downloaded the add-on since (mini rant alert) I have found Chrome for the Mac to be so buggy that I spend more time using Firefox these days. It’s one of those nifty visualizations that does more to make you look at it and go “Oh crap, that’s what is going on behind the scenes” from the shear volume of dots and lines it creates. If you want to get in the weeds with the tool you can and it will give you more detail as to the actual players in this data grab game.
To be sure, Mozilla is playing the privacy card from both sides of the coin. They are creating this paranoia but the article says
It may seem that Mozilla is on a crusade against the current trend of personalization, but Kovacs emphasized that Collusion is about alerting users to tracking that’s happening without their consent. It’s not about creating an alarmist attitude toward services that people opt-in to that provide recommendations based on your shopping history, for example.
Since we live in an age where you actually CAN have it both ways because most folks aren’t paying close enough attention to much of anything in their 30,000 foot fly-over mentality toward information and life in general, Mozilla can pull this off and look good to both sides.
I think it’s a neat tech tool that will be of some entertainment value to geeks but as far as it making the consumer more or less aware of things, I sincerely doubt it. Of course, Mozilla can track who is using the add-on and how they are using it but we won’t go there.