The Next Firefox Browser Will Block Advertisers’ Sneaky Tracking – Forbes

Online advertisers track you. They track you in order to build a profile of you. To figure out your likes and dislikes. To figure out what piques your interest and will get you to click on ads. Mozilla wants to make sure that tracking is done with your consent.


By now you’ve probably visited a site or two that notified you that you’re being tracked with one of those “this site uses cookies” disclaimers. Cookies are a common way to keep tabs on your activities. Advertising networks use them, too, but most major browsers made it relatively easy for users to block cookies a long time ago.

But no cookie doesn’t mean no tracking. There are other ways to identify you online, and they’re not as easy for the average computer user to avoid. One of those is a technique called canvas fingerprinting.

To fingerprint you, a site sends code to your browser that draws an invisible element on the page you’re viewing. The hardware in your computer causes minute variations in that element that make it fairly unique. The result is then hashed (converted into a string of characters), stored, and frequently shared with other sites.

Fingerprinting tends to happen without your knowledge, and Mozilla doesn’t think that should be the case. In the next big release of Firefox, version 58, Mozilla will introduce a new feature that detects fingerprinting attempts and gives you control over whether or not to allow them.

Firefox won’t be the first browser to implement fingerprinting protection. Bleeping Computer’s Catalin Cimpanu points out that the anonymity-focused Tor browser has offered this protection for years, and this type of thing has happened before. The Tor browser is built around the Firefox code and Mozilla will  implement privacy features that have proven successful in the Tor browser and bring them to mainstream Firefox users.

It’s pretty clear why someone using the Tor browser would want to avoid being fingerprinted, but why does the average Firefox user need a feature like this? Pprivacy controls are no longer just for those seeking anonymity online. After all the privacy-crushing breaches and leaks (like Equifax, for example) we’ve endured in recent years, it’s become critical that we all be given more control over who can and can’t have access to our data.

Protect Your Browser Today

Google Chrome users can install the Canvas Defender extension to protect themselves against unwanted browser fingerprinting. The extension is also available for Firefox. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger is another very good option, and it’s available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.


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