Free Firefox Add-in Let's you Know Who's Tracking You


Ghostery is a small Firefox plug that scans any web pages you visit and alert you if the page contains any web bugs.

And what are web bugs?

"A Web Bug is a graphics on a Web page or in an Email message that is designed to monitor who is reading the Web page or Email message. Web Bugs are often invisible because they are typically only 1-by-1 pixel in size"

Web sites use web bugs to learn more about you and your web behavior in much the same manner that they use cookies. Indeed web bugs are often used together with cookies to learn as much about you as possible.

Did I hear you say you turn off cookies?

Well, according to the Wikipedia article on web bugs: "Turning off a browser's cookies can prevent some Web bugs from tracking a customer's specific activity. The Web site logs will still record a page request from the customer's IP address, but unique information associated with a cookie cannot be recorded. However, Web site server techniques that do not use cookies can be employed to help track a site's cookie-blocking users."

In plain English they are saying that turning off cookies helps preserve your privacy but web bugs can still be used to learn something about your behavior. Not good.

Some folks try to kill web bugs by turning off graphic images in their browser. It's overkill if you ask me and it's not entirely effective anyway.

There are various products that clain to automatically kill web bugs but save your money; these are not fully effective either.

The free Ghostery Firefox plug-in is a simple free solution.  When you visit a web page it alerts you to the presence of web bugs by turning its liitle red tray icon from gray to red.  It also shows you a list of the bugs being used and the company behind them.

It not only detects web bugs but "3rd party widgets, analytics, ad networks" in use at the site you are visiting.

For most users web privacy is not an issue. For those who consider privacy important, Ghostery is a useful information tool that makes you fully aware when information is being gathered about you.

For example if you visit this website with Ghostery installed you will discover that we use Google Analytics to record our web site usage statistics.

Now Google Analytics is harmless enough but it's useful and comforting for a visitor to our site to know we use Google Analytics and nothing else.


Thanks to regular contributor Lex Davidson for alerting me to this plug-in.




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Ghostery has now become a tracker! In their new "Privacy Policy", they will be using data collected to serve up ads.