Mozilla says its Firefox browser will now block third-party tracking cookies by default – a feature first promised nearly a year ago – while also promoting a separate feature that prevents Facebook from tracking users on sites that have “embedded” Facebook capabilities, or Facebook’s “first party” tracking pixel.
Enhanced Tracking Protection will be set to “on” by default, Mozilla said, and will block known “third-party tracking cookies” on the Disconnect list (a list of tracking cookies kept by US business Disconnect, which provides an anti-tracking software, along with service to encrypt all traffic, mask IP and server location).
In response to changes in how third-party cookies are handled by browsers, Facebook has joined the list of various other large companies, such as Google and Microsoft, providing advertisers with a first-party cookie option that allows them to circumvent such do-not-track browser features, as a cat-and-mouse game between browser providers keen to tout their privacy credentials and advertisers continues.
Mozilla confirmed to Computer Business Review that Enhanced Tracking Protection does not work against Facebook’s new first-party cookie pixel: “The Enhanced Tracking Protection specifically works against third party cookies rather than the Facebook first party cookie pixels – we have our Facebook Container add-on for this purpose” a company spokesman said. That is a plug-in that runs a Facebook tab in a separate isolated container, which Mozilla says has now topped two million downloads.
The company also announced a desktop password manager, rebranded as “Lockwise”, and a fresh dashboard for Firefox Monitor, a tool that checks whether your email featured in a data breach. “Enhanced Tracking Protection will be practically invisible to users who will only notice that it’s operating when they visit a site and see a shield icon in the address bar next to the URL address and the small “i” icon” Mozilla said.
“The new feature will stop thousands of companies that are known for tracking people’s every movement from accessing users personal data, and builds upon the standard Firefox has set by baking in privacy into its products with Tracking Protection in Private Browsing (launched in 2015)” the company added.
The new update also includes an upgrade for Firefox’s Facebook Container, an add-on/web extension that helps users isolate their web activity from Facebook. (Mozilla claims two million downloads to-date).
“As of today, the Facebook Container will also prevent sites that have embedded Facebook capabilities on their site (such as the Share and Like buttons) from tracking users,” Mozilla said. “These buttons and all connection to Facebook’s servers will be blocked, so Facebook won’t be able to track user visits. It will also be much harder for Facebook to build shadow profiles of non-Facebook users. Users will know the blocking is in effect when they see the Facebook Container purple fence badge. ”
The decision comes a week after Google announced that in its forthcoming Manifest v3, it wants to change the way that browser extensions intercept and modify network requests from the browser; limiting the ability of extensions running on the Chromium browser to use the
webRequest API to intercept network requests (e.g. analysing and blocking requests from online domains like advertising networks.)
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO at Socialbakers, told Computer Business Review: “Welcome to the GDPR-safe digital marketing reality. A reality where marketers will need to rethink how to create content and retarget their audience without using tracking pixels or cross-site cookies that Chrome, Firefox and Safari will block. They will also need to rethink their attribution models without tracking pixels, or how to target their audience without collecting data from Listening, DMPs , ISP providers and CRM databases when they do not have consent from a user or legitimate interest (for example, when you need to acquire new contacts to create new business).”