Somebody is watching you… a piece about Third Party Websites

What are Third Party websites?

Third party websites are websites that interact with the primary website that you are using based on the cookies that were created.

What is Lightbeam and what does it track?

Source: Lightbeam for Firefox

Lightbeam is a Firefox add-on that allows users to see the websites they interact with along with third party websites. Lightbeam is abe to display the connection that the third parties websites have with the sites that you have visited. Third party websites are able to connect with you based on the cookies created.

This graphic is the result of browsing the internet for one hour. What you can definitely see from the graphic above is that the primary websites you visit are linked to multiple third party websites — Websites I did not know that were linked, or even websites I have never heard of before. The primary sites I have visited (that are indicated by the large circles) were Ryerson’s login, Google, Slides.com, SpringerLink, and the Journal for the American Institute of Physics. The triangles that are connected to each of the primary sites are third party websites.

But how does third party websites and cookies from the primary site work?

Well, have you ever been browsing for clothes on the internet, then all of a sudden, when you log onto Facebook, all you see are deals for clothing? That’s how third party websites and your cookies work. If you visit a Facebook like link, and visit any site, Facebook will be tracking it.

Why should we care about third party websites?

We should care about third party websites because our information is being shared. Since, we are not paying for membership for social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat — We are the product — Eyeballs for Access!

If we continue to use Facebook as an example, Facebook can be considered as a “data broker”. Your data can be sold to other sites that can use your data to target you for advertisements. Often times since your profile reflects your own personal interest, hobbies, and views, you may have a greater chance at being persuaded with advertisements that are targeted to your specific tastes and preferences.

Source: GIPHY

What I think is interesting, or rather shocking, is how unaware I was of how much interaction we have from third party websites. Even thinking about it, almost each of the major first party websites required you to enable cookies. Because we often times turn a blind eye and overlook our privacy and the terms of services when signing up, we never really think about how our information is being distributed or how we are targets for advertisements.