Help Guard Your Online Privacy with this Nifty Firefox Add-On

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These days being on the Internet means being tracked. Although you can take various measures to block trackers, it isn’t always clear who you have or haven’t blocked. There is a new Firefox add-on called Lightbeam that makes it easier to see just who is tracking you. Lightbeam is a successor to the Collusion add-on that was described in a previous Hot Find and in this previous tip. The new add-on provides visual representations that  enable you to see the relationships between third parties and the sites you visit.

Lightbeam

Lightbeam with blockingI had used Collusion previously and I decided to give this one a try. I also use the NoScript and AdBlockPlus blocking extensions and I decided to do an experiment. I first visited a well-known technology news site with both blocking extensions disabled. The graphic above shows what Lightbeam displayed for third-party connections. (In the actual display, placing the cursor on a triangle shows what the link is.) Then I enabled the two blocking extensions and revisited the same technology news site. The second graphic shows that third-party connections are much reduced but some are still present. Their identities can be found by placing the cursor on a triangle. You can then decide what, if anything, that you want to do about these remaining trackers or connections.

Lightbeam has several ways of displaying information and a description of its uses can be found at this Mozilla link. More information and the download link are at this Mozilla page.  After you install it, it gives you a chance to retain or delete any old Collusion database that you may have. On my system, the icon for the add-on was placed in the lower right corner of the screen.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

No Mozilla's SeaMonkey support? :(

If you already have Collusion installed as a Firefox add-on, installing Lightbeam appears to remove Collusion -- a search on the latter term in the FF add-on menu returns zero hits.

In effect, Lightbeam is an upgrade of Collusion.

I thought it's appearance was quite reminiscent of Collusion, and kind of figured that with Lightbeam's installation its concurrent removal meant there was a behind-the-scenes upgrade function at work but did not actually see anything explicit in that respect with the documentation. I'm inclined to think the 'Collusion' tag is a more descriptively accurate name for the add-on than 'Lightbeam', though.

Thanks for that follow-up link -- I had simply gone from the story where I'd seen its availability posted on a newspaper website (Guardian or Telegraph, can't recall which) directly to the "Tools" tab in my FF browser and installed it that way without further explanation.

What version/versions of Firefox does this work with? Never mind; figured it out. I tried to install it on FF 15, but the current version requires a minimum of FF 19. I tried installing an older version (0.24), which is "Collusion", and it's in the Add-ons - Extensions list dialog, but it installed -disabled- and will not allow me to -enable- it. It did not offer me the traditional -Restart- and I'm guessing that when I close the browser and restart it "Collusion" will no longer be there. I'm very apprehensive about updating FF to anything above 15. I fiddled with FF 24 on my wife's computer; what a piece of junk.

Thank you v.laurie, very much, for the info.

@wildweaselkeeper, Why so "apprehensive"? Was it because of add-ons you depended upon? Did you have a bad experience? I usually get the latest version for my OS so I'm interested to know why people get stuck on a particular version of Firefox or any other product. Particularly when the product is out of support.

@wildweaselkeeper
I am in NO WAY affiliated with Mozilla or FF but truth has to be told.

I strongly object to your satement about FF 24 being "a piece of junk".

I have installed FF on literally many hundreds of computers owned and run by, in their own words, computer illiterate people.

FF always and everywhere performs brilliantly - until a noob plays with the wrong add-ons, allows the ususal suspects like Conduit, MapsGalaxy, MyWebSearch and others to be installed on their machines.

All resulting effects are NOT due to FF.

Your post wreaks, pardon my French, of a sad lack of knowledge and debugging and/or basic clean-up skills.

@all others reading this:

If you install FF on an already messed up computer that gets no maintenance then the results will be unpredictable and can NOT be blamed on FF.

I am willing and able to prove that.

Thanks Vic! Will definitely be looking into this further after work.
In todays world of terabit memory being easily and cheaply available, there are few things that can make a systems resource hog even relevant anymore. And there are multiudes of programs that will inform those with older computers what exactly is using how much and what resources. Of course, as soon as I get this add-on, I'll be looking to see what third party connections appear when visiting our beloved Gizmo's site.

Seems useful, but does it not eat system resource too much? I have a certain cloud program (Bitdefender 60-Second Virus Scanner) installed, and it eats memory a lot (375MB) though the site says "it has no impact on your system resources." I'd rather avoid memory eaters as much as possible.

@Tod,

sorry, but you run the wrong "security" suite.

FF with WOT, AdBlock Plus and Disconnect on a machine with Microsoft Security Essentials will not "eat resources".

Even on modern but slow 4GB machines with a 1.3Ghz dual core Atom cpu I see absolutely no effect at all.

Naturally all this requires to heed WOT warnings and to know what the other add-ons do.

By the way, even the free OpenDNS service, preferably established in your router, gives you protection at least as good as the currently ca. 550kB big MVPS-Hosts file.

Thanks for the input. I will check my security suite.