Mozilla To Block Firefox Ad-Tracking By Default

Mozilla is to stiffen the privacy controls of its Firefox web browser, and will in future block advertising trackers (ad trackers) by default.

Mozilla will start by rolling out a series of initiatives to stop firms tracking the web surfing habits of people to help with their adverts. And by stopping ad trackers, Mozilla also hopes to improve privacy and reduce the loading speeds of web pages.

It comes after Mozilla in March this year launched a plug-in called the ‘Facebook Container’ to halt Facebook’s collection of data via its network of trackers across the web. And in 2016 Mozilla warned that tracking protection would be added to all products.

Chrome and Firefox

Do not track

Mozilla made the announcement of its new privacy clampdown on ad-tracking in a blog posting.

“Anyone who isn’t an expert on the internet would be hard-pressed to explain how tracking on the internet actually works,” Mozilla wrote. “Some of the negative effects of unchecked tracking are easy to notice, namely eerily-specific targeted advertising and a loss of performance on the web.”

“However, many of the harms of unchecked data collection are completely opaque to users and experts alike, only to be revealed piecemeal by major data breaches,” it wrote. “In the near future, Firefox will – by default – protect users by blocking tracking while also offering a clear set of controls to give our users more choice over what information they share with sites.”

Mozilla cited a recent study by Ghostery which found that more than 55.4 percent of the total time required to load an average website is spent loading third party trackers. “For users on slower networks the effect can be even worse,” said Mozilla.

In the meantime over the next couple of months, Mozilla intends to release a series of features that will begin the clamp down on web trackers.

It will start with a new feature in Firefox Nightly that blocks trackers that slow down page loads. “We will be testing this feature using a shield study in September,” it said. “ If we find that our approach performs well, we will start blocking slow-loading trackers by default in Firefox 63.”

For those that don’t know, Firefox Nightly is pre-release version of the Firefox browser built for testing purposes.

Why follow?

Mozilla is also looking to remove cross-site tracking. It said that in the real world people wouldn’t expect hundreds of vendors to follow them from shop to shop, spying on the products they look at or purchase.

So why do firms do this on the Internet?

“Users have the same expectations of privacy on the web, and yet in reality, they are tracked wherever they go,” said Mozilla. “Most web browsers fail to help users get the level of privacy they expect and deserve.”

“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,” it said.

It aims to bring this protection to all users in Firefox 65.

And finally Mozilla said that it also intends to mitigate harmful practices by firms.

“Deceptive practices that invisibly collect identifiable user information or degrade user experience are becoming more common,” said Mozilla. “For example, some trackers fingerprint users – a technique that allows them to invisibly identify users by their device properties, and which users are unable to control. Practices like these make the web a more hostile place to be. Future versions of Firefox will block these practices by default.”

The measures continues Mozilla’s serious stance on privacy. In 2016 for example it disabled an API in Firefox over concerns it could be used to track users.

And since 2015 Mozilla has operated Firefox’s Track Protection, which are aimed at blocking website elements that track user activity.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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