Friday, June 08, 2012

Collusion: Tracking the Trackers

We all know that we're being tracked on the Internet - almost every site we go to records at least a small amount of information about our visit and a number of sites actively record much more information about our visit and share it amongst themselves. Do we know, however, exactly how many sites are actively tracking us as we trawl through the Internet doing what we normally do at home or at work?

There's an interesting Add-On available for Firefox called Collusion that lets you visualize who's tracking you in real time.  It is quite interesting to leave this open in one window as you go about your normal Internet-based activities and see exactly who's keeping an eye on you throughout the day.  Interesting in quite a creepy and disquieting way, that is.

I first came across Collusion after watching the TED presentation given by Gary Kovacs, CEO Mozilla Corporation.  One of the points Gary made during this presentation was that he was “not even two bites into breakfast, and there are already nearly 25 sites that are tracking me. I have navigated to a total of four.”  I'd recommend you all watch Gary's presentation. :)

We're giving away private and personally identifying information on the Internet all the time that we'd think twice about giving to a random stranger in the street.  What is it that makes it so easy for us to give personal information to a faceless website yet not want to give this to a random stranger we actually meet in person?

Especially where children are involved, the level to which our Internet activities are being tracked is quite concerning.  Aside from this regular user/personal information tracking for the purposes of advertising, our children simply don't comprehend the types of filth that are out there trolling for information on them so it is our job as responsible adults to ensure we protect them from those elements of society that are out to harm them.  When your child types in their birthday, school, sex, sports interests or uploads photos, there are some people out there taking this information so that they can prey on your children - we need to make sure we monitor the information our children are likely to give out *before* they do so and regret it later.

So, please, have a look at this TED presentation and have a look at Collusion to see how many sites are tracking your Internet activity - it will give you some idea how vigilant we need to be to protect our children from any forms of privacy and personal abuse they can receive directly and indirectly through the Internet.

Lifehacker has some more information on Collusion and some things you can do to make the Internet a little more Opt-In than Opt-Out.


The Outspoken Wookie

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