Emily Carr Researchers Design Data Visualizations for Mozilla's New Lightbeam Firefox Add-On

Posted: Mon, 2014-09-22 14:21

Visualizations for recently launched tool expose online tracking

Emily Carr University's Research Centre in Social + Interactive Media announces the launch of Lightbeam, a new Add-on for the Firefox browser that enables users to visualize online data tracking in real time.  Mozilla, the developer of Firefox, partnered with the University on a year-long research project to improve Lightbeam's interactive visualization. 

The Emily Carr University research team was led by Associate Professor Amber Frid-Jimenez, who worked with student design researchers Sabrina Ng, Joakim Sundal and Heather Tsang to provide applied research in three key areas of the visualizations:

  • Browsing history: to interest users in privacy issues with an interface that facilitates exploration of their past browsing history and the third party connections that have been involved in this data;
  • Deep dive into time: to provide experts, power-users and those already interested in privacy issues with an interface that explores their relationships with trackers, and their enabling Web sites, to reveal patterns in the near term or over larger anonymized, aggregated datasets in the future;
  • Metrics as widgets: to provide users with an interface that displays simple figures and browsing history in real-time as single numbers and visual graphs.

The results of the striking visualizations developed by the University's researchers enable users to understand their personal relationship to online tracking - and to making informed decisions about their data collection practices.  It contributes to increased transparency about how personal information is collected and propagated by third parties, a key issue of online privacy. 

This research was supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Mozilla Foundation, and is a project of the Social + Interactive Media (SIM) Centre, headed by Kate Armstrong.

The University Research Centre's innovative project partnership demonstrates the importance of art and design in contemporary culture and industry, the expertise of our sought-after faculty, and the kinds of exciting real-world experience our students access through their studies here.

Visit Lightbeam to view the Media Release.

Learn more on the Research website.