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Observations

Observations

Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

How to Tell Who's Tracking You Online

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Earlier today Mozilla introduced Collusion, an add-on for the Firefox browser that shows you how companies are tracking you as you surf the Web. A cool visual demonstration of the software illustrates all the links that form as you crisscross just a few popular sites online, including IMDB, the New York Times and the Huffington Post. The software shows the connections between sites you visit and third-party tracking and advertising networks such as Doubleclick and Scorecard Research. It makes plain the invisible web that has been woven through the Web.

The software was created as a protoype by Atul Varma, who explained in a blog post that he "didn’t know a lot about tracking myself, so I whipped up a Firefox add-on called Collusion to help me visualize it better," he wrote. "The results were a little unsettling."

Collusion will help you understand how you're being tracked online, but it won't stop it from happening. For that, you can disable "third-party" cookies on your browser and install other add-ons such as TrackerBlock. A number of internet giants have also announced support for a "do not track" button, though that option may not become available until the end of the year.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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