Who is tracking your Web surfing?

Are you curious about what happens behind your Internet surfing?

If so, take a look at the graph below that shows a twenty-minute internet session on the Mozilla Firefox browser.

Lightbeam picture_cropped

It is a screenshot obtained using the add-on Lightbeam, which records both the visited websites and the third-party websites that were tracking this internet navigation. The numbers revealed that, after visiting 14 websites, 276 third-party websites were following the online search. If you also record your internet session, you can see the name of the third party websites by hovering the mouse pointer  over their symbols or clicking on the list, available on the left bar.

If you look at the symbols, the circles represent the visited websites and the triangles, the third-party websites, which were tracking the session. They are serving companies that recruit advertisers and manage the ads for the publishers.

The purple lines represent the tracking cookies, which can be stored for third-party sites to serve advertising material embedded in commercial sites, keeping information such as the visited websites and the viewed products. For example, when you press the Facebook like button in a website, it might set a third-party cookie that can be read by Facebook. That will make it possible for the advertiser to retrieve the cookie information when you are visiting another site with related advertisement, served from the same third-party site.

This digital arrangement may bring concerns about security, but, as cookies are small text files, they cannot execute files, scan your computer or find your personal information in your hard disk. They just work as keys to enable the websites to recognize you as a returning visitor and offer you customized pages. If you don’t want this kind of service, you can disable your browse for cookies and remove the permanent ones from the hard disk.

Despite this clarification about the role of the cookies, it’s important to remember that they indirectly provide to external parties information about your behavior, interests, and lifestyle. So, always be sure you are on a safe internet connection and be careful about the reliability of the websites you are visiting. Remember the graph shared on this post and look for a balance between the freedom to surf on the Internet and how much you would like to be noticed in this increasing digital world.

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