Mozilla Lightbeam to shine light on web's hidden connections


Mozilla has released Lightbeam, a tool designed to help users understand how their data is used after they use various web services.

Lightbeam is a refreshed version of the Collusion add-on, which was launched in March last year, with the aim of providing an insight into how "data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers".

The tool "brings to light the array of first and third party companies people interact with everyday across the web", said Alex Fowler, head of privacy and public policy at Mozilla.

When a user visits just a handful of websites, they often interact with over 100 other organisations, Fowler noted.

Once downloaded, the tool creates a real-time visualisation of visited websites and all the third parties running on those sites, which often throw cookies onto user machines.

A data map shows how these organisations are connected, whilst allowing users to share their details to help Mozilla "pull back the curtain" to see the inner workings of the Internet.

Outside of giving people more power over their data, Fowler believes Lightbeam offers benefits for publishers too. "Once the open data set has time to mature, we'll continue to explore how publishers can benefit from additional insights into the interaction of third parties on their sites," he added, in a blog post.

"With the Lightbeam for Firefox add-on and open data, we're providing a valuable community research platform to raise awareness, promote analysis and, ultimately, affect change in the areas of tracking and privacy."

The Lightbeam code has been submitted to Github, as Mozilla looks to the community to improve the service.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.