Mozilla Collusion Lets the Tracked Become the Trackers

Posted by · February 29, 2012 8:53 am

Unlike almost every other conference out there, TED is known less for its big reveals and more for its big ideas. The conference notoriously downplays corporate advertisements (well, except for the Ads Worth Spreading Awards) and rarely lets businesses–even if they’re sponsoring the event–take the stage to pitch products. That’s why, when Mozilla CEO Gary Kovaks unveiled Mozilla Collusion from the TED stage early yesterday, the blogosphere took note.

Collusion is a Firefox browser add-on that lets you see how your data is being spread to companies across the web. Essentially, it lets you track who’s tracking you for behavioral targeting purposes. Here’s how it works: Each time Collusion detects data being sent to a behavioral tracking site, it creates a red dot for advertising, grey dot for websites and a blue dot for data (I think) to help you visualize the link between you, your data, the websites you visit and the trackers those websites work with.

Mozilla has created an online demonstration to show how quickly data moves from websites to website. From his own personal research, Kovacs found that if his daughter visits four websites while surfing the web during breakfast, she will be tracked 25 times; and over the course of one day of normal online activity, Kovacs said he was tracked 150 times.

The mission of Collusion is to help users have a better understanding of which websites track them without their consent. And yes, in case you’re wondering, the Collusion browser add-on does let you turn off tracking you did not consent to.

The jury is still out for me personally as to whether I would actually use this add-on. It’s not that I want companies tracking my online behavior without my consent; it’s just that they’ve been doing it for years now, and it hasn’t bothered me. So, why would I want to add “check Collusion tracking and block unsolicited sites” to my already too busy to accomplish in 24 hours checklist?

What about you? Will you use Collusion? If you found a company you like was tracking you without your permission, would you stop using that company or visiting that website? Let me know in the comments below.