Firefox releases Collusion, online tracking paranoia enabler

Data visualization and privacy paranoia come together in a new add-on released by Mozilla, named Collusion.

Neat little graphs of what sites use what cookies await you with this quick addition to Firefox. That is, if you use Firefox. See, Josh made me install it just for this article, so we get a fresh look at what your tracking cookies look like after having visited five sites. Woo hoo!

Oddly enough, there’s nothing listed here from Google as tracking. Granted, I wasn’t signed in, but I’m not sure if that’s cause for alarm at this extension, or cause for relief because Google’s new policies are at work.

The extension is easy enough to use. Click its logo, it opens a new tab and shows you a snapshot of the information that sites are probably using to track you. It links together the sites that have these cookies in common into a little graph, so you can see which sites are conniving to destroy you based on that book you purchased last week. You know the one.

What really caught my eye was that the tracking data I expected to see was actually reversed. Here I thought that Amazon would be FULL of tracking information and partners because of those creepy emails I get from them showing me special offers on things I actually want. There are but two nodes in Amazon’s portion of the graph. Granted, that’s probably because Amazon does all their own tracking, but still…

No, the sites that had the most shared cookies were by far news sites. Anything from the two local Salt Lake City newspapers to Macgasm itself, they all read and wrote cookies used for tracking from various ad partners, and if you look closely at the header image, you can see that the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News all share a common cookie, presumably from one of their advertising partners. Kinda creepy.

Check out Collusion here if you’re still using Firefox, or are among the curious. Or, you can simply continue not caring like me, and sell yourself to advertisers in exchange for free content. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a book to read.

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