Why the Web is Dangerous: Third Parties Are Watching You

On 4 November, in one hour I visited 10 sites and got watched over by 99 sites, unknown to me! They are the true "Big Brothers watching me". This is the kind of info Lightbeam gives you.

Gary Kovacs' talk on TED almost two years ago was prophetic: "privacy is not an option", he said, and "the memory of the Internet is forever". That was in February 2012, and now that we are living through the scandal of universal NSA surveillance revealed by Moscow-bound Edward Snowden, this is more than ever the case.

In case you missed it, here is Kovacs' talk:



Over 2.4 million viewers! For a TED talk, that's really popular.

He was then the CEO of Firefox, today he is heading AVG, a web security company with 150 million subscribers.

Now what he refers to as "collusion" in the talk has become a Firefox add-on called Lightbeam. All you need to do is log into your Firefox browser and download the add-on. Don't worry, it's not going to blow up your computer. Besides, it's safe and transparent - the whole Lightbeam project is financed by the Ford Foundation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

What does Lightbeam do? It enables you to graphically visualize the first and third party sites you interact with when you visit the Web: the round dots on the graph are those you visit, the triangular ones are those who watch you behind your shoulders, and then of course there are more lurking in the deep Web that aren't even identified here...As the Firefox folks say, it helps "illuminate the inner workings of the Web".

Of course, it's a small thing compared to what the NSA can do: as the New York Times summed it up neatly in a recent article (to read it, click here): "Today's NSA is the Amazon of intelligence agencies, as different from the 1950s agency as that online behemoth is from a mom-and-pop bookstore." And small wonder, considering its budget is over $10 billion/year with 35,000 employees! Chances are that they have made the Web less safe as a result of their eavesdropping efforts that weaken encryption systems.

Every little bit helps to stay safe on the Net. Are you using Lightbeam? What do you think of it?
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