Private Eye: see who’s tracking you online

Hannah Kane

Create a “Wizard of Oz” moment by pulling back the curtain to see who’s watching you on the Web. Turn on Mozilla’s Lightbeam tool, visit a handful of websites to see who’s tracking you, and then learn how to fight back. You’ll never look at the Web the same way again!

1) Get started

  • a) Install the Firefox “Lightbeam” add-on. Using Firefox, go to https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/lightbeam. Click on the “Add to Firefox” button. Then click the “Install Now” button in the dialog that pops up.
  • b) Go to five of your favorite web sites. Could be Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, the New York Times, Amazon — anything.
  • c) Now click the Lightbeam icon in your toolbar. Take a look at the graph. It’s now filled with the sites you’ve visited (in circles) — plus all the hidden third parties that are active on those sites (triangles).
  • What are you seeing? A third party is another company, like an advertiser, that tracks what you do on sites you visit. You may not have realized it, but you’ve just interacted with all of those third party sites — in addition to the sites you actually meant to visit!

2) Take the quiz

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

3) Fight back

Take steps to protect yourself from unwanted tracking. You can start by enabling “Do Not Track” on your Firefox browser. Under “Firefox Preferences,” click on the Privacy pane. Set your Tracking preference to “Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked.”

This doesn’t fully protect you. Companies are starting to support Do Not Track, but you may not notice any changes initially. Mozilla is working with companies that have  started to implement Do Not Track, and with others who are committed to doing so soon. There’s more steps you can take here.

4) Share

  • Help other people protect their privacy by sharing what you’ve learned. Post a link to this activity on Twitter or Facebook, send an email to friends, or just talk to the person  next to you. Help expose the data tracking that happens across the Internet.
  • BONUS POINTS: reward helpers with badges. If you had helpers or co-organizers you’d like to recognize, they can claim a free Skill Sharer badge here.

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