New feature for F-Secure’s Freedome VPN exposes the Internet trackers that watch people while they browse the web.
F-Secure introduced a new feature today for their Freedome VPN that lets people take control and see who’s watching them online. The new feature is a visualization tool called Tracker Mapper that shows users how websites and online tracking work together to create data collection networks that watch people as they browse the web.
Tracker Mapper was released to beta testers in July, and was developed in response to Freedome users’ interest in online tracking. Tracking has become a prominent part of the Internet – over half of the top 100 domains on the World Wide Web exist entirely to provide advertising and tracking services.* And a recent survey conducted amongst people beta testing Tracker Mapper found that 87 percent of respondents were worried or concerned about online tracking.**
F-Secure’s Janne Pirttilahti, Director, Next Gen Security, said that Freedome users want more information on how tracking works because it’s a part of their online experience that’s difficult to understand. “The commercial surveillance industry isn’t really visible to most people. People know that companies are tracking them online, but they don’t know how the process works, what kind of information companies are looking for, or how to stop it. Tracker Mapper helps people learn more about online tracking so they can start to take back control of how they expose themselves online.”
Tracker Mapper creates a 24-hour record of the tracking attempts and malicious websites that Freedome blocks while people browse online. It displays this information in a real-time interactive visualization that shows how different websites and third party trackers create data collection networks that monitor people on the web. People can toggle the feature on/off and delete the records at any time, and as an added privacy measure, all data is automatically purged after three days. People can also export the data as a text file so they can store it locally for their own analytics, or even share and compare it with friends.
People beta testing the tool have responded positively to the information it provides, with 85 percent of survey respondents saying it helped them gain a better understanding of how online tracking works. According to Pirttilahti, the feedback collected during the beta testing process gave developers the opportunity to improve the tool, and ensure it provided information that could empower people to take control of their online privacy.
“The really challenging part about controlling privacy is knowing how information becomes exposed in the first place. This can be tough to communicate, so while our beta testers responded positively to the visualization, they wanted more emphasis on what they should take away from their experience. So we added in a feature that lists the more prominent trackers and websites in their networks to highlight where people are exposing themselves the most.”
Freedome is a one-button VPN that gives people a hassle-free way to encrypt their communications, change their virtual location to access geo-blocked websites and streaming services, and block malicious websites and online tracking attempts. It is currently available for iOS, Android, Windows PC, OS X, and Amazon Fire devices. Tracker Mapper is now available for Freedome’s OS X and Windows PC offerings, and is expected to be rolled out to mobile devices later in the year.
*Source: Data was collected by F-Secure Labs and is based on observed hits between September 15th and 22nd.
**Source: Survey was conducted by F-Secure in October 2015, and collected responses from 520 people beta testing Tracker Mapper for Freedome.