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Friday, May 15, 2015

Three free tools to understand cookies and online privacy

In the last post, we tried to understand about cookies and pixel tags. Today, let's see some of the free tools available that will help you understand who are tracking you and how each of the market players in the online advertising ecosystem get access to your basic details using cookies - Ghostery, WASP and Cookiepedia.


It's one of the most used browser extension that helps an user about privacy. It detects web bugs installed in a website being visited. The beauty of the this extension is that it allows users to block individual bugs on the fly. An user can also re-enable those bugs. Ghostery is available for all major web browsers as extensions or plugins. For example, let's visit The Wall Street Journal . As per this extension, they have implemented around 50 trackers.


As you can see some are for advertising purposes, some for analytics and so on. Hence once you visit the website; a plethora of other players like Doubleclick, Chitka, Turn, Twitter Advertising, TradeDesk etc. has the opportunity to learn about you and in-turn in-corporate the information in their algorithms for real-time advertising (We will look in depth about these topics later). Ghostery allows to to disable tracking of each of these trackers individually.

WASP (Web Analytics Solution Profiler)

If you are more tech-savvy, here is a similar app as Ghostery, but provides information about what tags and scripts are implemented in the website you are visiting. The beauty of this extension though is how it visualizes each tag or script. It follows a tree format showcasing details of the nodes. Let's continue with the example of The Wall Street Journal. If you click on a node- it provides more details like cookie variables, headers etc. that's being sent.Unfortunately WASP is only available as a Chrome extension.



This website is created by by The Cookie Collective, a privacy centric technology firm. Similar to Ghostery, you can use this website and check out how many cookies are being set-up when you visit your favourite web page. Let' continue with our example from above. Cookiepedia states, Wall Street Journal sets 802 cookies in total (cumulative) out of which First party ones are 214;Third party ones being 588.

Do you find these tools helpful? what are some of the tools that you use?


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