LightbeamLightbeam is a free Firefox add-on designed to help users visualize which companies are tracking them online. Mozilla’s Privacy and Public Policy Lead Alex Fowler went through his daily Internet routine after activating the plug in. After visiting just four websites, the new feature revealed he had actually interacted with 120 different companies online.

Lightbeam offers several visual representations of how different websites and applications are following your online activity. You can see who’s tracking you at any moment with a graphic. It re-imagines the Internet as swarm of apps chasing the user. You also get a Clock view displaying  daily highlights and a detailed List view.

When you activate Lightbeam and visit a website, the add-on creates a real time visualization of all the third parties that are active on that page. The default visualization is called the Graph view. As you then browse to a second site, the add-on highlights the third parties that are also active there and shows which third parties have seen you at both sites. The visualization grows with every site you visit and every request made from your browser. In addition to the Graph view, you can also see your data in a Clock view to examine connections over a 24-hour period or in a List view to drill down into individual sites.

The new add-on is a successor to Collusion, which Mozilla introduced in 2011 and sat in an open browser window. It used to track the cookies that track us across the Internet and showed users when they were being targeted. With Lightbeam, Mozilla, hopes to offer a more powerful and dynamic way to shine a light on a facet of life on the Web.

“It’s not necessarily good or bad,” says Fowler. “I think the bad that we’re focusing on is the lack of awareness, the lack of understanding.”

To start using Lightbeam, just download and install the plugin here and starting browsing. You’ll also have the option to share what you learn with a central database that hopes to map out a larger image of how the internet is connected.

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