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Happy Privacy Day! An Update from the Collusion Visualization Design Team

For the past several months, I have been leading a design team at Emily Carr and Mozilla with Mozilla's Collusion lead developer Dethe Elza to develop an interactive visualization layer for the Firefox Collusion Add-on. We're taking this opportunity on Data Privacy Day to give a progress report on the new design for Collusion visualization interface, especially since Mozilla has been named the Most Trusted Internet Company for Privacy in 2012.

Our goals are to make it easy for people to make sense of their own browsing data, expose relationships between websites and third parties - which normally remain hidden - and ultimately give people the tools to make their own decisions about their online privacy.

Toward these goals, we are adopting three main design approaches that will engage users who have various levels of technical knowledge and interest in privacy issues. The first approach engages people with little technical knowledge by giving them a tool to view and explore their own personal internet browsing history. The second will enable those already knowledgeable about privacy issues to find relationships, patterns and trends among trackers and the web sites that enable them. The third will let  users act on what they find in the Collusion data in real time. Together these three interfaces will empower users to take control over their own online privacy and perhaps take a step towards changing our expectations and policies toward how and when people track us across the Web.

We look forward to hearing your feedback. You can contact me @amberfj on Twitter or Dethe @dethe.

Design Concept #1: Collusion Clock Mirror

Our first design aims to engage people who aren't currently interested in privacy issues. The tool allows people to explore their own personal internet browsing history in daily,  weekly, monthly and more long-term views. We believe that people might like to see where they've been online, so the interface acts like a mirror reflecting an image of the user through his or her online browsing habits. Users also can see tracking data specifically related to each site that they visit displayed as connection points on periphery of the interface. We introduce users to the sites tracking them online through their interest in their personal browsing habits. Our hypothesis is that people will become interested in tracking and privacy issues through the lens of their own online experiences.

Check out the video above and the work of Sabrina Ng here about our concept sketch currently under development for an upcoming release of Collusion.

Design Concept #2: Collusion Deep Dive Analysis Tool
Our second design provides a tool for people already knowledgeable of privacy issues and online tracking. Experts, power users and inquiring citizens can use the interface to explore the relationships of trackers to their enabling Web sites, and can look for patterns over time in either their own data in the near term or in larger anonymized aggregated datasets in the future. This concept is currently in the beginning stages of the design. You can see our initial sketches by Joakim Sundal here. Stay tuned for further development.

Design Concept #3: Per-Browser-Tab Tracking Triage
Our third design approach provides a Per-Browser-Tab tool that reveals third party trackers on the specific Web site that the user is currently on in real time. We aim to expose hidden connections and potentially enable users to delete third party cookies on the fly based on what they might be doing. For example, if a user is shopping she may want advertising companies to track her in order to give her a more personalized shopping experience in the future, but if she is doing academic research, she may not want those companies logging information about her searches and browsing history. This concept is also currently in the early stages of design. You can see our initial sketches by Heather Tsang here. Stay tuned for further development.

About the ECU/Mozilla Collusion Team
In the Fall of 2012, Emily Carr teamed up with the Mozilla Foundation to improve the visualization design of Collusion, an experimental Add-on for Firefox that allows you to see who is tracking your movements across the Web. Led by Associate Professor Amber Frid-Jimenez and Mozilla's Collusion lead developer Dethe Elza, the student design team includes Sabrina Ng, Joakim Sundal and Heather Tsang, plus an extended team at Mozilla that includes David Ascher, Ryan Merkley, Kate Hudson, Mavis Ou, Monica Chew, Atul Varma, Ashkan Soltani and Alex Fowler.

Welcome to SIM Centre

The Social + Interactive Media Centre is a new research centre that supports a wide range of applied social, interactive and design projects. Funded by a 5-year grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the centre offers BC companies a way to tap the design, creative and technical expertise of Emily Carr faculty and students.