TechWeb

Mozilla 'Collusion' Reveals Online Tracking

Feb 29, 2012 (05:02 AM EST)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=232601687


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Mozilla on Tuesday said the Ford Foundation has agreed to support the development of Collusion, browser add-on software designed to show Internet users how they're being tracked online.

Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, demonstrated Collusion at the TED conference on Tuesday morning. In a blog post, he said the software "will allow us to pull back the curtain and provide users with more information about the growing role of third parties, how data drives most Web experiences, and ultimately how little control we have over that experience and our loss of data."

A Ford Foundation spokesperson said in an email that its grant is for $300,000. The philanthropic organization says on its website that it is "is pleased to support Collusion as part of our efforts to promote universal access, open systems, and diversity online."

In a related effort, Mozilla on Thursday at the Mobile World Congress in Spain plans to demonstrate Do Not Track, a privacy initiative designed to allow browser users to opt-out of online tracking, for its forthcoming Open Web Devices platform. The company has already implemented Do Not Track in Firefox for Android and says that, to date, 18% of users have chosen to opt-out of being tracked.

[ See our full Mobile World Congress coverage. ]

Privacy, it seems, is finally receiving serious consideration from both companies and lawmakers: Just last week, the White House proposed a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.

Mozilla's effort to limit online tracking comes as its primary benefactor and competitor, Google, is being raked over the coals for bypassing the default privacy settings for users of Apple's Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browsers, ostensibly because the settings interfered with other desired services.

Google is also under fire for attempting to simplify and unify the privacy policies for some 60 of its services into a single document, an effort that will allow the sharing of data across Google services to deliver more relevant content and advertising. The company plans to implement that change on Thursday.

Collusion is a visualization tool that may help users gain a better understanding of the privacy implications of using the Internet. With data from the user's browser cookies and Web history, it creates an interactive diagram to illustrate how website visits are tracked by advertising and analytics companies.

Mozilla's Collusion website acknowledges that not all tracking is bad. At the same time, it suggests there's something sinister about online tracking.

"If you haven't realized it yet, companies are tracking you across most of the sites you visit daily on the Web," Mozilla explains. "It's quite likely that these companies know more about you than your government. Some of them might even know more about you than your best friends."

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