Avast News

New browser extension lets you see exactly who’s tracking you online

Emma McGowan 14 Dec 2020

Stay looped in on the data that third-party companies might be using to profile you

You know you’re being tracked online — but do you know exactly what’s being tracked? And who’s doing the tracking?

If you’re like most internet users in 2020, the answer to both those questions is, “No.” And that’s by design: Some companies that track, compile, store, and sell your data don’t want you to know what they’re up to. And if you knew exactly what they were up to, you might not buy into their services.

Unfortunately, most of us didn’t have this insight then, but a new browser extension aims to change that for many people. Avast just released a new experimental Chrome browser extension called WebTrails that lets users see the personal data that third-party companies might be using to profile them. The tool creates an easy-to-digest, visual report that includes the websites and social media platforms users visit the most. It also tracks any significant security events that have affected those websites and lets users know if any of their private information might be at risk.

Recognizing that privacy has become as big of an issue as security online, WebTrails is the result of a customer-centric research initiative, as the company works to help people take control of their personal data.

“For most people today, the browser is the gateway to the internet and the epicenter of their online activity,” Ondrej Masek, Lead Software Engineer at Avast, said in a press release about the launch. “But there are few services that visualize the personal information stored in browsers in a way that’s tangible and concrete for the user. We hope WebTrails will make people more aware of the data they may be inadvertently sharing.”

In addition to visualizing data-tracking, WebTrails also shows users the days, times, and months they’ve been most active online and their most frequently viewed videos. Finally, it highlights each person’s top connections on social media, as well as where the data of those connections is coming from. 

As an experimental tool and because Avast is 100 percent committed to user privacy, the WebTrails source code is available for inspection under a creative commons license on GitHub. The company welcomes any and all feedback to help improve this new tool.