Security news that informs and inspires

Firefox Will Soon Block Trackers by Default

Mozilla is planning to block tracking from web sites by default in Firefox, a move that ups the ante on privacy controls in browsers.

Cross-site tracking is one of the more pervasive privacy problems on the web, and browser vendors and regulators have tried various tactics to try to address it. The Do Not Track option that’s built into most browsers sends a signal to sites telling them that the user doesn’t want to have cookies installed or have their device fingerprinted. It is usually turned off by default in browsers, and it’s not always easy to find in the settings.

To help address these issues and make it simpler for users, Mozilla will be blocking all trackers by default in an upcoming version of its browser, likely in late October.

“In order to help give users the private web browsing experience they expect and deserve, Firefox will strip cookies and block storage access from third-party tracking content. We’ve already made this available for our Firefox Nightly users to try out, and will be running a shield study to test the experience with some of our beta users in September,” Nick Nguyen of Mozilla said.

“We aim to bring this protection to all users in Firefox 65, and will continue to refine our approach to provide the strongest possible protection while preserving a smooth user experience.”

“This is about more than protecting users — it’s about giving them a voice.

Tracking on the web has evolved quite a bit from the days of simple cookies. Ad networks, social media platforms, and sites use a variety of techniques and technologies to track users around the web, including so-called supercookies and evercookies that are much more difficult to detect or delete. Other sites perform device fingerprinting, a technique that enables them to identify specific users without using a cookie or other identifier. Mozilla’s change to Firefox will be a major step toward allowing users to take back some control over this process.

“This is about more than protecting users — it’s about giving them a voice. Some sites will continue to want user data in exchange for content, but now they will have to ask for it, a positive change for people who up until now had no idea of the value exchange they were asked to make,” Nguyen said.

Mozilla already has added the default blocking technology to its Firefox Nightly builds and users who’ve downloaded that early version can enable it through the Content Blocking section of the Control Center Menu in the browser. The technology is set for implementation in Firefox 65, which is dues for release on Oct. 22.

Firefox also will start blocking some trackers that are slow to load, a function that bogs down web browsing, in version 63.