Firefox doubles down on privacy with default cookie tracking blocker

By Lucy Ingham

Firefox has strengthened its position as the browser for online privacy protection with a new default feature that not only blocks third-party tracking cookies but also prevents web-hosted cryptominers.

As of today, all users with either the desktop or Android version of Firefox will see cookies used to track users across multiple domains blocked automatically – as long as they have the Standard setting enabled in their browser.

This includes tracking by high-profile sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google, meaning that Firefox users will no longer get the kinds of creepily tailored ads that lead users to wonder if major companies are listening to them talk.

Firefox takes on privacy with Enhanced Tracking Protection

The service, known as Enhanced Tracking Protection, has been available for some time as an option for the browser, however until now Firefox users have had to opt to turn it on.

However, it has already proved popular, with 20% of users opting to enable it.

From today this will rise to 100%, with Firefox creator Mozilla saying that it “works behind-the-scenes to keep a company from forming a profile of you based on their tracking of your browsing behaviour across websites – often without your knowledge or consent”.

Users will be able to tell is Enhanced Tracking Protection is working by the presence of a small purple shield icon visible next to the address bar.

They will also have the option to disable the service for specific sites should they wish to do so.

Cryptomining under attack

Today’s announcement also includes an additional by-default service that will further protect users’ privacy on Firefox by blocking more malicious online activity.

This takes the form of a blocker for cryptominers, which run on websites without users’ knowledge to harness their machines to mine cryptocurrency.

Notorious for exhausting CPU speeds and draining computer batteries, these generally run on less trustworthy sites. At present, many users rely on third-party plugins to block cryptominers, meaning this feature will likely to be welcomed.

Firefox as the privacy first browser

Having lost its once prized position as the web browser of choice to Chrome, Firefox has increasingly been positioning itself as the choice for those concerned about online privacy – an ever growing issue in the wake of scandals such as Cambridge Analytica.

Today’s announcement is one of a number of features released over the last few months designed to enhance privacy protections for Firefox users. Others include a built-in secure password generator and a blocker for fingerprinting scripts, which is set to become a default feature in the future.

Meanwhile Firefox owner Mozilla has also rolled out a number of other services within this space, including an EU Elections Toolkit in May that was designed to help users understand how online election advertising worked and could be misused.

The company also teamed up with Google to block efforts by the Kazakhstan government to intercept citizens’ internet traffic.