Tracking is an integral part of advertisement on the Internet. While there are websites that display ads without tracking users to gather information, most forms of advertisement rely on profiles and tracking.
The reason is simple: the more you know about a user the more targeted ads you can display.
Do Not Track (DNT), a method to inform sites that a user does not want to be tracked, may have been a step in the right direction but since it is completely up to the company to honor it, it is not very practicable for users.
Mozilla is working on a tracking protection feature in Firefox currently that goes a step further than this. It basically enforces DNT on the user side of things by blocking known tracking scripts on the Internet.
Part of the feature has been integrated into Firefox 34 Nightly already, but it is not enabled right now. Mozilla has created special test builds however where the current state of the tracking protection feature can be tested in.
Note: The following information and designs are not final and subject to change.
To use tracking protection in those builds, do the following:
- Type about:config in the browser's address bar.
- Search for privacy.trackingprotection.enabled.
- Double-click the entry.
This sets it to true the first time which in turn enables the protection. To disable it again, repeat the steps outlined above.
Side Note: Tracking Protection relies on Safe Browsing. If you have disabled the feature, you cannot use Tracking Protection. You can enable Safe Browsing in the options under Security.
A website tracking you is indicated with an icon next to its address. This is the same icon that is also being used to highlight insecure content (meaning mixed http and https) content on a web page.
You find a learn more link there that does not load a web page currently because it has not been created yet. This page will provide users with information about the tracking protection feature.
There is also an option to turn it off or on again for that domain to whitelist it.
What is being blocked?
So what is tracking protection blocking? A couple of tests showed that it blocks select resources from first and third party domains. If you open the Developer Tools of Firefox with a tap on F12, switch to Network, and reload a page after enabling tracking protection, you will notice that some elements are listed with a size of 0 KB and a loading time of 0 ms.
This indicates that the file has been blocked from loading by tracking protection. If you disable tracking protection on the domain, you will notice that those resources will get loaded normally.
It is unclear how the list is curated and how Mozilla determines if a resource is tracking related.
The feature should not be confused with Internet Explorer's Tracking Protection feature which Microsoft launched in Internet Explorer 9. The core difference is that you need to enable lists, either your own custom list or third-party lists, to use the feature.
According to Mozilla, the feature may be disabled by default. Users will find it listed under Privacy in the options of the browser eventually so that it is not required to modify the preference on the about:config page. (thanks Sören)