Over the last few months, Mozilla has added a number of different features to Firefox to prevent or limit user tracking by third parties, and with the release of Firefox 70 this week the company is going even further by blocking trackers from social media networks.
The change is part of a broader strategy for Mozilla to position Firefox as the browser of choice for people concerned about privacy. In September, Mozilla added a feature called Enhanced Tracking Protection to Firefox and turned it on by default. That feature blocks known third-party trackers across the web and is designed to prevent ad companies and others from building profiles of people as they move around the web.
Mozilla said it has blocked more than 450 billion third-party tracking requests in Firefox since July.
“This shocking number reveals the sheer scale of online tracking and it highlights why the current advertising industry push on transparency, choice and ‘consent’ as a solution to online privacy simply won’t work. The solutions put forth by other tech companies and the ad industry provide the illusion of choice,” Peter Dolanjski and Steven Englehardt of Mozilla said.
In Firefox 70, Enhanced Tracking Protection adds some new features, the most prominent of which is the ability to block trackers from social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Those networks have extensive systems in place around the web to track user behavior and how they interact with the sites they visit, most of which is done invisibly and is mainly in the service of ad targeting. Firefox’s new system prevents the most common trackers from those networks from being able to place cookies on users’ machines.
“Social networks place trackers on other websites to follow what you do, see, and watch online. This allows social media companies to collect data about your browsing history and improve their ad targeting. Even if you don’t use a social network, that site can still collect data about your browsing habits. Firefox blocks the most common trackers from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that appear on other websites,” Mozilla said.
“Social media companies will still be able to collect data about you on their own social networks, including Facebook-owned services like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.”
User tracking is at the heart of the ad-targeting economy that underpins not only the social networks themselves but also the wide variety of other sites that depend on support from those networks. Some of that tracking is obvious but a large portion of it is done behind the scenes and most people have little or no idea that it’s happening.
Firefox 70 also includes a new reporting tool that enables people to get a view of how many tracking requests the browser has blocked, as well as a password-management and generation tool called Lockwise. The tool can sync passwords across devices and is integrated with Firefox Monitor, the service that alerts people if their passwords are part of a data breach.