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I Visited 47 Sites. Hundreds of Trackers Followed Me.

Farhad Manjoo, The New York Times:

Earlier this year, an editor working on The Times’s Privacy Project asked me whether I’d be interested in having all my digital activity tracked, examined in meticulous detail and then published — you know, for journalism. “Hahaha,” I said, and then I think I made an “at least buy me dinner first” joke, but it turned out he was serious. What could I say? I’m new here, I like to help, and, conveniently, I have nothing whatsoever at all to hide.

Like a colonoscopy, the project involved some special prep. I had to install a version of the Firefox web browser that was created by privacy researchers to monitor how websites track users’ data. For several days this spring, I lived my life through this Invasive Firefox, which logged every site I visited, all the advertising tracking servers that were watching my surfing and all the data they obtained. Then I uploaded the data to my colleagues at The Times, who reconstructed my web sessions into the gloriously invasive picture of my digital life you see here. (The project brought us all very close; among other things, they could see my physical location and my passwords, which I’ve since changed.)

What did we find? The big story is as you’d expect: that everything you do online is logged in obscene detail, that you have no privacy. And yet, even expecting this, I was bowled over by the scale and detail of the tracking; even for short stints on the web, when I logged into Invasive Firefox just to check facts and catch up on the news, the amount of information collected about my endeavors was staggering.

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