Advertising and marketing companies use tracking to learn more about users that visit properties on the Internet that their services run on.
Knowing more about users increases the profitability of advertisement which is the core reason why tracking is used so widely these days.
Do Not Track was a first attempt to give control back to users but the main problem with the feature is that it is not mandatory.
Advertising companies can honor the Do Not Track setting of a browser but don't have to.
Mozilla launched a new experimental feature in Firefox Nightly, the cutting edge version of Firefox, as part of its Polaris initiative.
Tracking Protection is not enabled by default but when you enable it, it will improve user privacy on the Internet by using so called block lists of domains and sites that are known to track users. It is also enabling Do Not Track automatically.
Basically, it is blocking known tracking sites in the browser whenever sites try to make those connections. The first initial version of Tracking Protection uses the blocklist of Disconnect.
Turn on the tracking protection
You need to do the following to enable the Tracking Protection feature in the Firefox browser (note that it is only available in Firefox 36 Nightly currently):
Make sure it is enabled
Nothing changes after the restart right away. If you want to know if the operating worked out fine, do the following to test that:
If you see Tracking - Prevent sites from tracking me there, you have successfully enabled Tracking Protection. There you can also disable it again at any time without having to open the about:config page to do so.
How it looks on sites with contents that track you
When you visit a website that is tracking you directly or loading scripts that do, you will see a new icon in Firefox's address bar next to the url.
When you click on it, it displays that elements on the site track your online activity and that the feature has disabled those elements.
There you can also enable these for the site in question which can be useful if they power other functionality on the site or if you don't mind that those scripts are loaded on that particular site.
A click on the options button displays an option to disable the protection on that site.
What I like about the Tracking Protection feature is that it does not block advertisement completely but takes care of tracking domains only. As a webmaster who earns his living from advertisement, that is obviously better than getting ads blocked outright and not earning any money from users visiting the site.
The feature is experimental at the time though. An option to load and manage different tracking lists would be useful for example as you'd get more control over the feature in the process.
Mozilla's Tracking Protection is not the first attempt at integrating block lists into web browsers natively though. Microsoft introduced a similar feature (enable lists, block or allow sites based on those lists) some time ago in Internet Explorer for example.
The feature itself is not really for experienced users either, as they are likely running add-ons or programs already that protect them from ads or tracking on the Internet.
Less tech-savvy users on the other hand may benefit from this.
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats (video ads) or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.