Demonstration from the Ghostery website
Demonstration from the Ghostery website

One of the extensions I added to my recent Mozilla Firefox extensions post that I hadn't talked about before is a privacy gem called Ghostery. Whenever you visit a website that has hidden web bugs (bugs as in spying not errors) to track your online behaviour, it briefly superimposes a translucent message in the top right corner of the window informing you of such. It also adds a cute little Pacman-like monster to your status bar that persistently identifies how many bugs are on the current page.

As was the case when I realised how many sites break when JavaScript is only selectively enabled with NoScript and when cookies are only selectively enabled with PermitCookies, it's been a real eye opener to see just how much snooping is happening on various sites I visit with this extension installed.

Some sites have nothing, others are perfectly harmless such as Whole Wheat Radio which only employs Google Analytics:

Ghostery on Whole Wheat Radio

The current record for the most number of bugs on pages I frequent since installing this extension is Mashable which ranged from six to eight depending on the page. They look innocuous enough to me, but the number does seem a bit excessive:

Ghostery on Mashable

As with much of security, the number of bugs on pages isn't necessarily an automatic indication of how trustworthy a site is, though I would propose it does indicate where the priorities of the web developer and/or the site owners are. What's more important to notice is what the bugs are.

My browsing habits haven't really changed since installing Ghostery, but as with all my other security and privacy extensions it's a part of my web defence kit which helps me identify material on sites so I can make informed decisions.