LightBeam is a Firefox addon that will show you how tracking cookies behave, it helps to educate users about how much personal data is being collected without their knowledge, many people do not realise that tracking cookies share data in between websites, this addon will show with grey dots legitimate cookies that store settings and tracking cookies that monitor what sites you visit on the web with red dots, and arrows indicating the traffic direction.
This privacy addon shows a real time visualization of companies, analytic software, social networking sites and others tracking users across the web as they go from page to page, the extension launches the visualization website in a new tab and it remains open as the user surfs, it shows the user that advertising networks like Doubleclick (Google property) insert cookies that know what you do in a variety of unrelated websites belonging to different companies, aka tracking cookie, having a cookie sharing data across sites advertisers can build a personal profile with personal tastes based on what one has been looking at, this data can then be used to personalize adverts or sold.
A privacy plugin like Lightbeam is useful to see for yourself all of the data that tracking cookies collect and share about you or to show your friends how they are being monitored on the web.
Internet browser Do Not Track
Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer browsers all have a built-in do not track feature allowing users to opt out tracking websites sending out a signal in the HTTP headers indicating this preference, but it relies on advertising networks honouring it, while the major players do, there are still many companies left that ignore the Do Not Track choice as it is not compulsory by law.
- To turn on Do Not Track in Firefox: Go to Firefox>Options>Privacy and tick the checkbox “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked”
- To turn on Do Not Track in Internet Explorer (IE 9 and above only): Visit Microsoft Do Not Track test page scroll down and download the tracking protection list.
- To turn on Do Not Track in Safari: Go to Develop>Send Do Not Track HTTP Header and click on it.
- To turn on Do Not track in Chrome; download the Keep My Opt Outs Chrome addon
Once you have instructed websites not to track down your Internet browsing habits you could see the same adverts more often as nobody should know if they have already been shown to you at other websites, websites you visit could also get less money with Do Not Track visitors, targeted advertising commands higher dollar than random banners.
Update 2013: Addon was formerly named Collusion, article updated.