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ever wondered what the ad networks know about you?
July 25, 2011 5:57 AM   Subscribe

Collusion is a firefox add-on that visualizes in real-time which data collection companies track you across different websites on the web and what they're learning about you. Atul Varma describes how this project came about. Safari meanwhile has ghostery, an extension that gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity.

TrackerBlock for firefox and AdBlock for safari seem to be doing a pretty good job if this kind of stuff bothers you.
posted by krautland (17 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ghostery exists for all major browsers, not just Safari. They just have slightly different feature sets, due to limitations set by different browsers.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 6:04 AM on July 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I use Ghostery on Firefox, along with Better Privacy and TrackMeNot.
posted by bwg at 6:08 AM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stupid question: after installing Collusion, where is the graphical interface to be found? I've visited several sites without anything resembling the demo popping up.
posted by odinsdream at 6:21 AM on July 25, 2011


Andrew Lewis = blue_bottle?
posted by likeso at 6:25 AM on July 25, 2011




Stupid question: after installing Collusion, where is the graphical interface to be found? I've visited several sites without anything resembling the demo popping up.


You have to click the little icon at the bottom right of your browser. However, I went to ebay and to facebook to see what would happen, and I only got a graph for ebay. I'm pretty sure facebook is tracking me.
posted by spicynuts at 6:26 AM on July 25, 2011


odinsdream, the main page linked is where the graphical interface has started to appear for me after a brief amount of browsing following installing the addon.

This is one of those things that's fascinating from a data standpoint, but really meaningless in the long-term. There's nothing to do with the data, there's nothing to learn from the data (except to install TrackerBlock, I suppose). Still, it's an interesting exercise.
posted by litnerd at 6:27 AM on July 25, 2011


There's nothing to do with the data, there's nothing to learn from the data

You could learn who the biggest offenders (in terms of both the host sites and the tracker sites) are. And I actually came in here to say I don't want a blocker--I want a deceiver. I want to feed false cookies and fake tracking data to these guys.
posted by DU at 6:34 AM on July 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Maybe we could organize a "cookie exchange" party?
posted by hank at 7:01 AM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Note to self: don't visit imdb and everything will be fine.
posted by gronkpan at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2011


This could be a lot better if it didn't require you to mouse over the nodes to see what they represent.
posted by odinsdream at 7:30 AM on July 25, 2011


Andrew Lewis = blue_bottle?
Yep. Another MeFi's own
posted by fullerine at 7:49 AM on July 25, 2011


Aside: As Safari is a distant 4th in browser penetration, it always takes me a back a bit to see Safari options presented without Chrome even being mentioned.
posted by lodurr at 8:21 AM on July 25, 2011


You can extract the contents of your .safariextz files using xar. Safari installs them in in ~/Library/Safari/Extensions, btw.

In theory, all the filetypes contained therein should be human readable, like html, js or css, etc., or imagine files like jog or gif, meaning you could review the code yourself to make sure it doesn't steal passwords or something. In practice, you'd usually simply verify the project looks legit, say by glancing over the project's revision history.*

If you have any doubt, there is an 'Include Secure Pages' option inside the extensions Info.plist file, which presumably disables it from seeing your bank account passwords. Or you could just disable any iffy extensions before visiting your bank's website.

* In fact, the only Safari extension I've personally reviewed is JavaScript Blacklist. I'd usually just trust mega-popular extensions like AdBlock and ClickToFlash, but actually glance over the code from an obscure one like Ghostery, just trying to gauge the complexity and keep an eye out for suspiciously obfuscated code.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:30 AM on July 25, 2011


I've been using "RequestPolicy" for Firefox to see, control and mostly suppress the inclusion of content external to the sites I'm visiting online. Not unlike software firewalls you have to train it by gradually whitelisting stuff you want or need (a lot of websites load content such as images from a secondary url with a different domain name... like foocdn.com for foo.com).
So far it's been working great. It's cool because you can see the whole tree of external references for any page you're visiting (though I assume it can't track/block anything done by stuff like flash etc.)
posted by Hairy Lobster at 1:08 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I find that I already get most of this info by using noscript and just seeing what external javascripts is trying to serve me. Some sites are just crazy with over twenty different external scripts. Still a neat and interesting start.
posted by srboisvert at 3:01 PM on July 25, 2011


Using noscript is great, but I found stuff was still slipping through until I installed ghostry. Which is amazing. Between the two of them, I feel like I have control of my machine, which is wonderful.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:18 AM on July 26, 2011


Anyone know how these stack up against kissmetrics? I'd imagine ghostery keeps them from appearing, no?
posted by jeffburdges at 3:32 PM on July 30, 2011


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