Firefox update takes steps against cross-site tracking
Mozilla has released a new feature for Firefox to eliminate cross-site tracking from cookies.
With a new update, users can now choose to change the way cookies work on the browser, either by blocking tracking cookies or all cookies from sites. This has been named the ‘Enhanced Tracking Protection’. In addition, this can be altered subsequently on a per-site basis, as some cookies are necessary in the functioning of a site.
In addition, the update introduces Siri shortcuts for Firefox and theme matching for the browser, so it matches the light or dark theme chosen for Windows.
This update is currently available in Firefox Nightly, with a plan to roll it out to all users in early 2019.
Previously, Mozilla announced it was to augment its web browser Firefox to increase user privacy. The non-profit web developer, which has a track record of prioritising the privacy and data of its users, detailed plans to release a collection of features over the coming months.
Firefox’s updates are targeted at cookies and internet trackers that remember and track your identity across the web. The data these cookies collect is primarily used for targeted advertising, although information collected through these means is often used for other purposes and Mozilla want to stop that.
The first update blocks various nefarious online practices; such as sites that install cryptomining programs without your knowledge, or sites that ‘fingerprint’ users to recognise them based on their device properties. These types of software can have a negative effect on the performance and integrity of devices, which is why Firefox 62 will eradicate them come 5 September.
Another update, released with Firefox 63 at the end of October, blocks internet trackers based on performance issues. According to a anti-tracking extension company Ghostery, over 50% of page load time is spent loading trackers – as Mozilla’s update stops these bulky trackers from running, pages should load much faster in Firefox 63.
The final update, which will likely be included in Firefox 65 at the end of January 2019, will completely stop third-party content tracking users. This means cookies will be a thing of the past and trackers won’t be able to store data on users’ devices. In its announcement, Mozilla recognises the problems advertisers may have with this change, as many use browsing history to sell relevant products. Rather unhelpfully, Mozilla simply suggests advertisers should prioritise user experiences.
Earlier this year Google took steps to remove particularly heinous adverts from Chrome, but the company still enjoys a lucrative advertising branch, and as such, the update had a minimal effect. As Mozilla is a non-profit organisation, its update seems targeted to user functionality.
Users who want to jump on board with these updates ahead of their official roll-out, Mozilla is trialling them via Firefox Nightly, an early-access version of its web browser.