Mozilla Firefox’s Lightbeam and Cookies

Your digital footprint and those watching you

Whenever we access the World Wide Web, we’re leaving behind a digital footprint that can be traced back to us. The sites we visit, every search that we’ve made on our browser, the websites we follow are cookie crumbs (get it? I know, not that original) that lead back to us. Now, this information is invaluable in a business sense. The information and data produced by a cookie can be leveraged by advertising companies in hopes of increasing sales and the number of page visits. Cookies are data invisible to the user that stores information regarding their browsing habits — these things include the ads that have been clicked, webpages that have been visited etc. One thing to keep in mind is that, without cookies, you would still be exposed to these advertisements but they would be irrelevant to you and your search history. Below is a more in-depth video regarding what cookies are and how they work.

Lightbeam is a software add-on on Mozilla Firefox that enables users to see the first and third parties you interact with on the World Wide Web. It utilizes interactive displays to see who you’re connecting and interacting with in real time.

Lightbeam allows users to see what third-party websites are stored on your computer browser

Once you install the Lightbeam add-on, users can then click the logo on the upper right hand of the browser to activate it. When I first used it, the default visualization was an interactive graph or web if you will. For every visited sited, Lightbeam will create a circular icon and it will also create a triangle icon for every third-party site that branches from said circle. Each website or circle is connected with a third party site via a line in real time. The greater the size of the circle, the greater number of third-party connections. The more connections that two websites have, the closer they will appear on the graph. This web display will continue to grow with every website visited on your browser in real time, like so.

A Lightbeam Graph

Lightbeam is extremely interactive and gives users a myriad of information regarding whose watching you, for a lack of a better word. Users can click on any icon (circle or triangle) and a slide-out on the right will appear giving you information regarding how long you’ve been on said site, the server location and the third-parties. For instance, by clicking on the YouTube icon, third-parties include google,, to etc.

Information that Lightbeam produces for users wanting to know about third-party tracking

The information gathered and created by Lightbeam are stored on a user’s computer. A user’s browser history can be saved, you can reset your history, and uninstall Lightbeam altogether to delete the stored information on your computer.


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