Module Four: Lightbeam

Most individuals in today’s society are familiar with the notorious Internet cookie and understand its inner workings of tracking our movement on the World Wide Web. Before conducting this assignment, I was fairly sceptical of seeing any results from Lightbeam that were unordinary from my well structured background in technology and marketing. After 20 minutes of browsing the web, I was completely surprised, shocked, and intrigued at the results produced.

Lightbeam Graph
The results indicate that from the 18 websites visited, over 165 third party websites tracked my movements in various ways. For example, when I visited Tom’s Hardware to read about technology news, over 31 websites were connected to my movements in some form or way. Of these 31 websites, Facebook was the most prominent one. Furthermore, some websites that don’t even appear on Google were found on the list. High Speed Back Bone is an odd example of one of these websites.
These results are truly fascinating and allow me to view the array of companies that track browsing data to customize advertisements and web experiences for myself. But when does tracking go too far in the eyes of consumers or companies? This is where the never ending debate of privacy comes into discussion.
The free flow of information with little interactivity between consumers and companies has allowed products to be tailored to our best interests. The term interoperability is much of the reason why this has occurred. Our web browsers have very little restraints in place that allow high levels of interoperability or the ability to transfer information across multiple platforms to occur. Companies are able to collect information through Firefox, for example, and transfer it to their databases without technological constraints.
Now, interoperability is not the sole issue around this “cookie epidemic”, but rather a symptom of the main issue. The rules established for interoperability must be clearly defined at each layer to avoid free flow of information without consumer consent. This can either occur at a software level (Firefox) or a governmental level (digital laws and regulations) to ease breach of privacy. The most common form can be an “opt-out” option before browsing the web.
Lightbeam opened my eyes today on the severity of tracking cookies and the breach of privacy without any form of consent. This Lightbeam graph was only 20 minutes of my daily regime. Can you imagine what information they have collected over the last year? This is something we need to think about next time we log on to the World Wide Web.

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