Blacklight Privacy Tool
Shine light on website tracking practices
Today on my Mastodon feed, several folks were discussing a new tool by TheMarkup called Blacklight. This tool is billed as a “real-time website privacy inspector” that showcases the ad and tracking tech deployed by a website.
I shared this tool with several colleagues and it engendered a stimulating conversation surrounding company commitment to privacy. I argued during this conversation that it would be worse for a company to claim to value customer privacy and then have Blacklight reveal otherwise, than to have made no such claim in the first place.
For example, Apple has made the claim that “Privacy is a fundamental human right”. Their blacklight report shows that Apple at least doesn’t employ third-party tracking on their homepage. If they had tracking enabled - and it’s possible they have first-party tracking that this tool doesn’t detect - then that would look worse than a generic company with loads of tracking on their website. While it doesn’t excuse the tracking performed by this example company, my argument was that customers would lose more trust in apple because they were hypothetically lying about their respect for privacy.
Customers want privacy and it is good for business. Customers are demanding punitive action against companies that violate their privacy. It makes sense to honor customer privacy from a business standpoint, but more importantly from a moral standpoint.
It’s worth pointing out that this tool doesn’t provide novel information for users who’ve been using an ad-blocker, script-blocker, or similar tool for years. However, it does provide the capability to link to reports of these sites to users who do not use these tools and may not be aware of how pervasive surveillance capitalism is online.
If you’re unaware of the pervasiveness of online tracking, please enjoy using this tool to uncover the trackers used by your favorite websites.
A Call to Action
Please share the results of sites you investigate with your friends and family! Spread the word about the trackers infesting the web. This is a pernicious problem that will only be solved once a critical mass of people become aware of the issue.