Talking about privacy nowadays is very common especially for the influence of social media in our daily lives but how much we understand the easy way our privacy turns into an open book. We all know that our information is available to many sources. Maybe an image can help us to understand better the process of being tracked from the moment we click our favorite web site.
This image is the graph provided by Lightbeam, a Forefox add-on that allows to see the third parties that are collecting information about our browsing activity with and without our consent. This graph was the result of 20 minutes searching the web and this can reflect very accurately on how 83 third party sites were tracking my web usage during that time while navigating only in 11 sites. This program presents the visited sites as circles and the third parties sites as triangles. At the same time shows their connection and cookies through lines. As we know, a cookie is a small text file created by a Website that is stored in the user’s computer either temporarily for that session only or permanently on the hard disk. Cookies provide a way for the Website to recognize you and keep track of your preferences.
Lightbeam also allows to check the list of websites visited and the intruders (the third party ones). As an example, when searching Google, http://google analytics.com and http://education.com were among the many third parties connected to this website. If you take a look at those websites you might notice that they offer services for businesses. Generally, businesses tend to categorize our data in the buckets of similar data and display promotions in an efficient way. They don’t necessarily care who we are but others like the Government when accessing our data may be interested in knowing more about us.
Awareness is very important, it can help us to be proactive and take some actions in order to protect some of our privacy like being careful about the sites we visit, learning to get rid of cookies in a daily basis or using services like Do Not Track which is a web tracking Opt-Out service that communicates to third parties sites that you do not wish to be tracked.
Protecting our privacy and online identity has become a challenge of this digital age and it still will be while we keep discovering the benefits of being connected online and the increase of users allow us to compete in a bigger and global market.