Mozilla announced Friday, the first day of MozFest 2013 in London, a new add-on for the Mozilla Firefox Web browser. Called Lightbeam, the Firefox add-on provides a real-time visualization of every first- and third-party application that is active on websites a user visits.  

Mozilla Lightbeam will also show users the relationship between all those parties, which Mozilla hopes will give users a better understanding of online-data tracking. Mozilla also allows users to contribute data from their Lightbeam database to help build a more macro-level visualization of the connection between first- and third-party websites.

“Call it a Wizard of Oz moment for the Web, where users collectively provide a way to pull back the curtain see its inner-workings [sic],” Alex Fowler, the global privacy and public policy lead at Mozilla, wrote on the Mozilla blog.

Fowler said that that the revelations about government surveillance leaked by Edward Snowden, while important, have overshadowed the hidden data collection that third-party companies do all the time. Fowler acknowledged that these companies are “an integral part of the way the Internet works,” but said that the lack of transparency is eroding users’ trust.

“At Mozilla, we believe that everyone should be in control of their user data and privacy, and we want to help you have the ability to make informed decisions about your Web experience,” Fowler said. “With the Lightbeam for Firefox add-on and open data, we’re providing a valuable community research platform to raise awareness, promote analysis and, ultimately, affect change in the areas of tracking and privacy.”


Lightbeam is actually the latest iteration of an experimental add-on called Collusion that Mozilla released a year ago. To continue growing Lightbeam, Mozilla posted the code to Github and encouraged the Mozilla community to “hack, expand and improve.”

Like the rest of Mozilla’s software, Lightbeam is available now as a free download from the Mozilla Add-Ons marketplace.