The whole world is connected to the Internet, which means bank for advertising companies who track your every move online. Most of the content you see on the web is free, and that's because of advertisements. If there were no ads, none of us would be addicted to the Internet because none of us would be able to afford it.
The majority of these marketing and advertising companies track your behavior and movements online, keeping track of everything you look at—everything you click on—to serve you better ads that meet your needs and make them more money. And website owners know that if the ads on their site are more focused, the advertisers would pay them more. It's a system that works for everybody—except the lonely web surfer.
Most web users are aware of behavioral targeting by now, and many have taken the steps to prevent their daily web routine from getting spied on by trackers. But few know the extent of what's happening when these companies track you—and how widespread it really is. Now, everybody can know, thanks to Mozilla Labs employee, Atul Varma, who created the Firefox add-on called Collusion.
Collusion visualizes in real-time which data collection companies are tracking you online, across the many different websites you visit. And yes... these data tracking companies follow you around, from site to site. The Collusion extension will even show you what these trackers are learning about you.
Varma developed Collusion as a means to educate the public on how cookies and tracking work on the web. He said, "I actually didn't know a lot about tracking myself, so I whipped up a Firefox add-on called Collusion to help me visualize it better. The results were a little unsettling."
If you don't want to download the Collusion extension for Firefox, at least head over to collusion.toolness.org to try out the demonstration, which takes takes you through five popular websites and visualizes the tracking companies that stalk you across them. If you like what you see and want to look at the visualization of your own browsing behavior online, download the add-on. Once installed, just click on the Collusion button at the bottom-right of your browser.
There's not much to do with the data, except know what's going on—then stopping these advertising companies from tracking you, using tools like NAI, PrivacyChoice, TrackerBlock, AdBlock, and Ghostery.
"If you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold." — Andrew Lewis