Lightbeam Visualization

Lightbeam is a web browser add-on that allows users to visualize all of their web activity. This add-on is specifically designed for Firefox, and shows the following sites in a spider-web like shape: visited sites, third party sites, connections, watched sites, blocked sites, and cookies.

For this tutorial, we were asked to install Lightbeam and surf the web for 20 minutes.

Here is my interactive web of all of the sites I visited, and the large number of third party sites that came as well.

20MinThis visualization shows how large and how in depth the Web is, especially when it comes to third party sites and tracking cookies.

During the 20 minutes, I spent most of my time researching DNA and sculptural materials for an ongoing project in another class. Many of the sites I visited had embedded links and some even had pop-ups. A total of 24 sites were visited, and most were pages belonging to specific artworks or sculptural artists bio’s. A grand total of 170 third party sites were tallied during this short amount of time.

Being able to see the number of “hidden” connections was shocking and surprising. It is scary to think about how your own personal data is being gathered and collected without you even being aware. It really made me think about what online security really meant…

The number of third party sites that appeared when on social media sites was startling. I had no idea how many websites were running behind the scenes. Essentially, by signing up for social media – you are signing your privacy away. The third party sites, 99% of which I have never heard of before, were all collecting and tracking my information. Seeing this graph shows which websites/companies value user privacy and/or customer privacy, and which one’s do not.

In Interoperability, Palfrey and Gasser seem to state the obvious: “privacy and security risks, are, of course, the primary concerns when it comes to interoperability” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2012). This visualization drives home the advantages and disadvantages of interoperable systems. Sure, it can be handy and convenient when things are connected, but it is clear that there is a lot of “behind the scenes” activity going on that the average user would not know about (Palfrey & Gasser, 2012). These complex, interoperable systems seem to be the standard or norm in the Web 2.0 digital age.

For fun, I decided to run Lightbeam for a total of 24 hours to see what my data visualization would look like. I can only imagine what this graph would show if I allowed Lightbeam to collect for an entire week!

24 HOURSResources:

Palfrey, John G, and Urs Gasser. Interop. 1st ed. New York: Basic Books, 2012. Print.


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