Is someone spying on you online, here is a way to find out

Posted By: Vishnu Sasidharan

    Every website you visit places a small piece of data on your computer which is then sent back to your computer every time you revisit the site. This file usually contains the name of the website and a unique user ID. When you access a website, your PC checks to see if there is a cookie present in the PC and sends it to the website, this helps the website to measure the web traffic or identify who you are and tailor the content according to your preferences, for example, the items in your shopping cart.

    Is someone spying on you online, here is a way to find out

    But the trouble starts when sites begin to subscribe to advertising networks in order to drive up their sales, these networks often place third-party trackers that can determine your surfing and personalization preferences. Third=party tracking continues to advance and grow with them being able to piece together data from multiple sites in order to create a unique fingerprint or profile that can be used to identify the computer that accesses the site. Cookies are an integral part of Internet commerce but allowing an advertising network to have access to your personal information makes you uncomfortable, you should try the following extensions to circumvent the issue.

    Panopticlick

    Panopticlick is a research project launched by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this project is capable of identifying each website based on its fingerprint.

    Panopticlick studies the add-ons and extensions to determine which trackers are following you around as you go about surfing.

    All you have to do is go to the site and hit the giant orange button with ‘Test Me' written on it to get a list of the things that your browser has and has not done.

    Am I Unique?

    We already know that the fingerprint of our browser is not an unchanging thing. ‘Am I Unique?' focuses on determining whether your fingerprint or browser is noticeable enough to be tracked and identified.

    Am I Unique saves your fingerprint in their database and also adds a four-month cookie to your system. You can revisit the site to determine the changes to your browser fingerprint and determine how unique your fingerprint is.

    Visit Am I Unique and click on the ‘View my browser fingerprint' button to obtain an overview of the features of your browser and details and graphs as well.

    There is also an option available where you can contribute and help Am I Unique understand browser fingerprints better, you have the option of adding an extension for Chrome and Firefox which will allow it to study the uniqueness of your fingerprint.

    Disconnect

    Disconnect is one of the most prominent of tracker blockers, it is capable of blocking over 2000 trackers. This has actually allowed websites to be loaded about 27 percent faster as well. Disconnect also allows you to whitelist the trackers you do not have an issue with.

    When you access the website, you will observe three options:

    1) Basic

    2) Pro

    3) Premium

    The Basic allows you to block trackers for a single browser while the Pro does this for your entire device. The Premium version allows you to use their VPN across three devices. Out of the three, only the first one is available for free.

    Clicking Get Disconnect allows you download the extension and after installing it, you can obtain a visual representation of the trackers that follow you around. It is available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera.

    Lightbeam

    Lightbeam does not deal with boring numbers and words, it gives you an entangled web which is a visual representation of every website that you have visited. The downside is that it is only available for Firefox.

    After accessing the browser, you will need to visit the extension page where you will encounter a blank page initially, as you visit more sites, the page will start getting filled with the sites you visit and their trackers.

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    Trackography

    Trackography

    Trackography is a very impressive visual aid, what sets it apart from the two that were mentioned before is the fact with Trackology, you will be able to keep track of the companies that are tracking you and the countries that host the servers of the website you are using and the trackers that follow you.

    After accessing the website, you will need to choose your host nation, after you select the website you wish to connect to, you will be provided with a visual representation of the path your data follows.

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