Mozilla tool pulls back curtain on Web snooping

WASHINGTON — Someone is always watching, but now internet users can see whose prying eyes are tracking their movements.

An add-on for the internet browser Firefox, called Lightbeam, is a tool for users to see which companies and organizations are snooping on their sessions.

“The first step in any of these types of issues is understanding all those different companies you’re interacting with,” says Alex Fowler, the privacy and public policy leader for Mozilla, which runs Firefox, in a video.

“It really is a ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment,” he says.

Lightbeam isn’t designed to track the kinds of surveillance that has been attributed to the National Security Agency.

What it does is provide a view — almost a road map — of all online interactions. A spiderweb of third-party connections may be linked to a single site.

Many users have no idea they’re being watched, let alone who’s doing it.

“Very few people recognize that the interactions that they have online are far more expansive than just the web sites that they think they’re visiting each day,” Fowler says.

This tool is designed to be informative as much as anything else.

“We’ve built Lightbeam to help each one of us understand what tracking is occurring and what kind of information we’re sending out in our daily lives,” Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s co-founder, says in the explanatory video.

“We see Lightbeam as both a teaching tool for the people who use it and also a learning tool for all of us,” Baker says.

Watch Mozilla’s video introducing Lightbeam.

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