Collusion: Why It Always Feels Like Someone’s Watching You

Collusion Graph

Collusion Web Graphs illustrate which websites are feeding third parties information about your web browsing habits.

Above is a graph detailing data recovered from a 20-minute browsing spree in which I visited a variety of websites including: Google, Twitter, Facebook, Imgur, and YouTube. Unbeknownst to me, 20-30 other websites were also privy to my online surfing, with some possibly even relaying personal data through to 3rd party channels.

To be honest, I’m not too concerned by this revelation. After some minor investigation on some of my “trackers” the majority appear to be sites that use hidden cookies for ad networking/targeting. In a way, these trackers could be considered less annoying telemarkers. They still want you to eventually buy into something, but they’re not absolutely in your face.

As a retail employee, I ask customers to voluntarily relay their phone numbers and email addresses during every shift. The company I work for claims to use this information for “customer retention” and email marketing purposes, but who knows where all that data ends up.

The website that appears to link the most cookie trackers is Imgur. This is an online community that hosts the images for one of the world’s more popular internet forums, Reddit. Imgur hosts a lot of content, some paid for, while the majority is user submitted. As such, its understandable that there are external sites “piggy-backing” on the popularity of the site. Because I don’t actually operate an account with Imgur so I can’t comment or contribute any posts, I’m really not too worried about what they’re tracking.

I believe that we are on the brink of really discovering just how much of an issue our lack of understanding surrounding digital security really can be. That’s why its pretty great to know there are apps/tools like Collusion available to online users for free.