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Firefox gets even more aggressive than Chrome and Safari with new tracker blocking features

Published Sep 2nd, 2018 1:44PM EDT
Firefox blocks ad trackers
Image: Mozilla

A recent study by Ghostery found that more than 55 percent of the time it takes to load an average website is spent on behind-the-scenes drudgery the actual user doesn’t care about — namely, on the loading of ads that users often ignore anyway and which slow the whole experience down.

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser, pointed to that reality as one of a few important reasons the company is making a major change in the way it tries to protect user privacy. In short, Firefox is going to start clamping down big time on brands’ ad-tracking that tries to stalk you around the web.

Over the next few months, Mozilla announced via a blog post today, it plans to roll out a series of features in line with its new attitude toward ad-tracking via three key initiatives. Citing the Ghostery data, one of those approaches has to do with improving page load performance.

“Long page load times are detrimental to every user’s experience on the web,” the company’s blog explains. “For that reason, we’ve added 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.  If we find that our approach performs well, we will start blocking slow-loading trackers by default in Firefox 63.”

Cross-site tracking, meanwhile, is also in Mozilla’s crosshairs. You wouldn’t expect the representative of a brand in the real-world — like, a real live person — to sort of casually walk behind you as you venture from one store to the next. Yet that, of course, is kind of the reality on the web, and because of that Mozilla argues most browsers don’t come close to giving users the level of privacy they expect and deserve.

That’s why the company says Firefox will start stripping cookies and block storage access from third-party tracking content. It’s a feature that’s already available for Firefox Nightly users to try out, and Mozilla is hoping to bring this protection to all users in Firefox 65.

Stamping out general bad practices is also part of this new approach. Things like trackers “fingerprinting” users, which users aren’t able to control and which allows for the identification of users by their device properties. It’s these kinds of things Mozilla argues have made “the web a more hostile place to be” and future versions of Firefox are going to block such practices by default.

“This is about more than protecting users — it’s about giving them a voice,” the company says. “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.”

These protections are already available to try out now in Firefox Nightly. Head to the Control Center menu, accessible on the left-hand side of the address bar, and go to the “Content Blocking” section. From there, you can check the boxes for and enable the new features you want to try.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.