At a time when your ISP is tracking your online activities, sites you visit are doing the same (even the one you do not visit are able to track you), Google is not to be left out in the game, and the NSA is tracking everybody else, it’s easy to be depressed.
What exactly don’t these guys know about you? Or what can’t they know about you? For most people, the shocking answer, is not much. You see, privacy died about 10 years ago. There are things you can do to regain some semblance of privacy in your life, but with the wide variety of ways used to track you, only the most paranoid and tech-savvy has the skills to put up a good fight.
But while most of us can’t do very much, we can at least have fun tracking who’s tracking us, as we surf the Internet. If you use Firefox Web browser, an extension called Collusion can help you see which websites are tracking you. Install it like you would install any other Firefox add-on.
Once installed, you can access the graph by clicking on its icon in the bottom-right of the browser window, or from the menu – Tools -> Collusion Graph. This image shows all the websites that are able to track me when I visited the nytimes.com. That’s just one site I visited and 14 other sites can track me.
Some sites do not cause as many third party tracking as the nytimes.com. For example, visiting nsa.gov only added one more third-party to the mix. Duckduckgo.com, my preferred search engine, does not add any extra spy, other than its own cookie. I don’t even want to tell you what happened when I visited my own site. Ridiculous!
Just as I was about to press the publish button, I decided to see what happens if I disallow any type of cookies – first-party or third-party, from being set on my browser. There was no difference. I don’t know how they do it, but Collusion’s graph still read the same, as when cookies were allowed.