The importance of knowing more about the Web

Tristan Nitot

5

One of the top goals of Mozilla is to give more people more control over their on-line lives. At Mozilla, we’re passionate about the Web, but like every tool, it can be used in positive ways, but also less beneficial ways.

So how does Mozilla empower users? There are many ways, and the most obvious is Firefox. With hundreds of millions of copies of Firefox used each month, the values we put in Firefox positively influence and empower our users. We protect them by fixing security bugs as quickly as we can, by preventing phishing and telling our users when they’re about to visit rogue sites. I won’t get into many details for now, but you get the idea.

It does not stop here. Douglas Rushkoff,  explains it very clearly:

When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but to write. And as we now moved into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them.

Mozilla does not want to train each and every Web user into a developer, but we certainly think that everyone would benefit from understanding better how the Web works. Mozilla Foundation’s executive Director, Mark Surman, has been doing a lot of work on this topic, and I encourage everyone to read his Mozilla Learning Proposal .

For now, I’ll just on a very simple Firefox add-on named Collusion, whose promise is to help you discover who’s tracking you on-line. As we hear about “on-line privacy breaches” horror stories on a daily basis, most of us have no idea of who’s tracking us on the Web. Collusion is a very easy way to visualize who’s tracking us. I’m using it myself, and here is what is shows after I’ve visited a dozen of sites while working on this article:

Screenshot of the Collusion add-on after a short browsing session

Screenshot of the Collusion add-on after a short browsing session

Each circle represents a Website. Sites with a halo are sites that I have visited. Sites in gray are sites that I have not visited. A line from one to the other means that the former site has set one or more third-party cookies to inform the latter site about my visit.

I encourage you to install Collusion (no need to restart Firefox for this) and give it a try. Then browser the Web as you would normally, and you’ll see that many Websites that you do not visit can track you. Not feeling like installing an add-on? Just check out the Collusion demo.

This is just an example of what Mozilla does to make people more aware of how things work on the Web. Interested in learning more? You may want to visit Hackasaurus.org, a program to “build a generation  of web makers”. I’ve already written about the folks behind it, it’s an amazing initiative…

5 responses

  1. rubberpants wrote on :

    I’m surprised that you don’t have something on the page to tell me about the Webtrends bug you’re using to track people that come to this page. I’m sure it’s buried somewhere in your privacy policy somewhere though.

    Be the change you want to see.

  2. ghost wrote on :

    Ghostery prevents such tracking. Ghostery shows you’re using Webtrends on this page to collect statistics and track users!

  3. ecomware wrote on ::

    Neat. An enterprising organization could probably use this networking graph to determine where to go for bits of market data they’re not currently able to capture on their own. I see this generating new partnerships between companies – and your tool can promote and monitor this growth.

  4. ct wrote on :

    Wow, great tool. As I’m a regular chrome user, I’ll wait for the similar in chrome.

  5. Pingback from Mozilla and Privacy | Beyond the Code on ::

    [...] mentioned Collusion in a recent post, as it’s one of the things that Mozilla does to educate users about being tracked. To better [...]