When you open a new website or click through to a new web address, you are not the only the one watching. Chances are that third parties are in on your web browsing. They know what you are looking at and they are collecting the information to use or sell later.
Facebook and Google are the two biggest advertisers on the internet and the two biggest trackers on the internet. Facebook and Google track your search, web browsing habits and websites even when you are not on their own sites.
This week, Julia Angwin, investigative journalist, author of Dragnet Nation and Editor of The MarkUp, is launching a new free service to help everyone see exactly how they are being tracked by third parties on any web domain.
You will be surprised by how many third parties are tracking you and the sites they are tracking you on. Some major commerce websites use cloaking technology to disguise the cookies they install to follow you.
To see how third party apps and cookies and tracking you on any website, go to Blacklight at The MarkUp and easily enter the web address of any site you have visited.
Blacklight will show you whether Google and Facebook are tracking you, and how many cookies are being installed on each site. Blacklight will also show you if websites are monitoring your keystrokes – what you type – and mouse clicks. Some website use ‘canvas fingerprinting’ to get around cookie blockers.
“Blacklight is an engineering feat,” said Julia Angwin this week.
“Eighteen months in the making by a team led by The Markup Investigative Data Journalist Surya Mattu.
“Blacklight is a profound accountability tool and also surprisingly addictive. We hope you enjoy using it to explore the hidden surveillance all around you.”
For example, when I visit Blacklight and type in www.cashwelcome.org I learn that the only third parties involved in this site are associated with Stripe, the payment processor in the Cash Welcome Shop and Google. There is no Facebook and no outside advertisers.
While Cash Welcome.org is not selling my information to other advertisers, privacy is huge issue at other sites online. We don’t know what our purchases and transactions and browsing information is being used for and by whom.
And it is not always the fault of website owners. In TheMarkUp’s The High Privacy Cost of a “Free” Website article by Investigative Reporter Aaron Sankin and Surya Mattu reveal how difficult it is to build a privacy protecting website. For example, Kara Zajac tried to build a privacy-preserving website for transgender military service members and veterans but didn’t realize that the site’s embedded Disqus discussion tool allowed 21 third-party trackers to piggyback onto her site.
Some of information can still be kept private, completely and 100% private by using cash. Cash is safe, private, reliable and surcharge-free.
Check out Blacklight and the CashWelcome.org shop where you can buy something without Facebook knowing about it.
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