Mozilla publishes Anti-Tracking Policy - gHacks Tech News

Mozilla publishes Anti-Tracking Policy

Firefox browser maker Mozilla published an Anti-Tracking policy recently that defines which tracking techniques Firefox will block by default in the future.

The organization launched Tracking Protection, a feature to block or restrict certain connections, in 2014, and revealed in 2015 that Tracking Protection would reduce page load times by 44% on average.

Tracking Protection launched in Firefox Stable for non-private browsing windows along a new feature called tailing in November 2017 with the release of Firefox 57.

Mozilla revealed plans in mid-2018 to push Tracking Protection in Firefox and the Anti-Tracking policy is an important milestone of the process.

mozilla firefox tracking protection

Mozilla's plan is to implement protection in the Firefox web browser against all practices outlined in the anti-tracking policy.

Tracking Protection relies on Disconnect lists currently to identify trackers. Mozilla defines tracking in the following way in the document:

Tracking is the collection of data regarding a particular user's activity across multiple websites or applications (i.e., first parties) that aren’t owned by the data collector, and the retention, use, or sharing of data derived from that activity with parties other than the first party on which it was collected.

In short: if user activity data is collected and stored, used or shared by third-parties, it is tracking.

Mozilla plans to block certain tracking practices. Outlined in the policy are the following types:

  • Cookie-based cross-site tracking -- Cookies and other storage types may be used by third-parties to track users on the Internet. See Firefox new Cookie Jar policy.
  • URL parameter-based cross-site tracking -- Another cross-site tracking practice that relies on URLs instead of cookies to pass on user identifiers.

The organization highlights other tracking practices that Firefox's tracking protection won't block from the get-go but might in the future:

  • Browser fingerprinting -- Sites may use data provided by the browser during connections or by using certain web techniques to create user fingerprints.
  • Supercookies -- Also known as Evercookies. Refers to storage used for tracking that is not cleared automatically when a user clears the browsing history and data. See this list of caches that Firefox uses.

Firefox won't block techniques described above if they "lower the risk of specific user harm". Mozilla highlights two scenarios where this is the case:

  • When the techniques improve the security of client authentication.
  • To prevent the creation of fraudulent accounts or completion of fraudulent purchases.

Closing words

Mozilla will implement protection against the outlined forms of tracking in future versions of Firefox. The organization's plan to tackle tracking and not advertisement in its entirety is different from the ad-blocking approach that Opera Software or Brave are pursuing. Ad-blocking takes care of tracking practices automatically by blocking certain content from executing on web pages.

I like Mozilla's approach to tracking as a webmaster as it does not block advertising outright and speed up the death of sites like mine. As a user, I think it would only have any chance of being effective if advertising companies like Google would get their act together and a) start to limit tracking and b) deal with malvertising and advertisement that is very taxing to system resources.

Now You: What is your take on Mozilla's approach?

Mozilla publishes Anti-Tracking Policy
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Mozilla publishes Anti-Tracking Policy
Firefox browser maker Mozilla published an Anti-Tracking policy recently that defines which tracking techniques Firefox will block by default in the future.
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  1. supergirl said on February 1, 2019 at 10:31 am

    When I started reading my1st thought was, “So this is why Microsoft chose Chrome over Firefox.”

    If Google doesnt follow suit webmasters may abandon allowing Firefox totally.

    We need laws here in th US. so freedom doesnt die with a whimper.

  2. John G. said on February 1, 2019 at 11:31 am

    @Martin thanks for the article. Latest non related news, I am being affected by the new W10 service update massive fail: “We couldn’t connect to the update service. We’ll try again later, or you can check now. If it still doesn’t work, make sure you’re connected to the Internet”.

    1. John G. said on February 2, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Update issues still persists for me and for other several people around the world. No fix indeed.

      1. John G. said on February 4, 2019 at 7:07 pm

        This issue seems to be solved by Microsoft after five days. Not bad.

  3. Anonymous said on February 1, 2019 at 11:57 am

    Use UBlock Origin to block tracking. It’s more complete and trustworthy, it defends users with no compromise.

  4. John Fenderson said on February 1, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    “What is your take on Mozilla’s approach?”

    It’s better than no tracking protection at all and is probably a great thing for people who aren’t willing to put up with better protections.. But for my purposes, it’s woefully inadequate.

  5. Untrusting Customer said on February 1, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    I simply do not trust mozilla anti-tracking policy.

  6. gwacks said on February 2, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    “I like Mozilla’s approach to tracking as a webmaster as it does not block advertising outright and speed up the death of sites like mine.

    It’s nice to see how a webmaster/publisher treats adverertising frankly with his approving anti-tracking attitude, which is actually even more critical than users’ ones, beacause of the different precedence and weights of rights/interests of players in current online ad business: 0 <= users' << developers'&publishers' >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Thought: (…and this is my very *personal* opinion…)

    I think people on ghacks here all missed one essential point of view when they accused EvilCorps for shitty things (advertising/tracking/dominating),
    which made them unable to treat similar unfairness fairly.

    Yeah, M$ and Goolag are definitly two most famous *EvilCorps*..and
    the only way organized evil is ever stopped is by organized good opposing it
    well..but, wait a minute,

    Isn’t it also Mozilla’s fault setting itself up in such *tricky* situations (eg. the Skype one you already know)‽

    I mean, since M$ ditched EdgeHTML to embrace and honor Chromium/Blink, the Web is dominated by Chromium which is the de facto standard.
    If Mozilla really *cared* about the Web why would they still persists in *preaching* their own Gecko/Servo/Rust or whatever else rubbish,
    wasting resources on reimplementing a parallel universe that’s used only by sick geeks/nerds/wacks like me who are even less than 5%,
    instead of following M$’s footsteps to contribute to Chromium for a bright future?
    Not to mention, it is also open source not some IE6 proprietary BS.

    The modern web platform is so incredible complex, boiling the ocean and insisting on your own implementation is just stupid suicide.
    Look elsewhere, look at operating systems, look at the Linux kernel w/o GNU. Consolidating, laying and collaboration. Beauty!

    Why not M$ ditch Windoze as well?
    Is Apple still doing awful work on Darwin?
    Why doesn’t BSD just die?
    HURD? A tragicomedy I don’t even want to metion it.
    why does the web platform have to be any different?
    How has linux survived for decades without dis-respecting all
    that is good & decent, Me ask ya all?

    Don’t tell me they’re on different levels and uncomparable, ya cheaters, and
    Don’t call diversity/competition, fuck it, too much to eat, I only wanna my shiny open source MX & Mint, simple, sufficient, pretty,
    although I hope Mint guys take very good care of their sites from backdoors, cause I don’t want to be hacked once again.
    and I wish both of them would consider to switch from Firegarbage to Chromium by default. Please be modern and professional, fellas!

    Don’t get me wrong, let me be clear:
    Chromium/Blink is becoming the next shiny newborn *Linux* to our beloved Web!

    The fact is it really has the potential to be a great open governance project, like Node.js, like Linux foundation,
    which is shared for everybody and contributed by multi-vendor collaboration,
    with one supreme benevolent *ditactor* like Linus or Sir. TBL (why he started building a parallel universe called *Solid*? IDK, but it can’t be success, LoL),
    one have the supreme jurisdiction above all else. Sounds inspiring?

    But.., if Mozilla doesn’t even have the strength to resist current dominance,
    why would they have enough power to drive the Chromium project to honor a open and free as in freedom bloody Web?
    Good question. Too hard to think effectly, shit head is gonna hurt.
    Lets just neglect it, nobody really cares about that.

    Why we need a so-called standard for the Web, which would be entirely pointless in the end?
    Just admit it, ladies, it won’t hurt that much,
    all ya exactly want is only one good & decent Web of GAFA which,
    you really should be pleased to open all your sources to.

    Game over, babe.
    It’s time for Mozilla to get down from their hypocritically philosophical ivory tower,
    but reorgnise into one brand new genuine ivory tower,
    doing so-called *research*. LoL

    Have a nice weekend, ladies.

    1. John Fenderson said on February 5, 2019 at 6:50 pm

      @gwacks: “The fact is it really has the potential to be a great open governance project”

      Perhaps, but it’s very hard to see that as a likely thing.

      “like Node.js, like Linux foundation”

      I don’t know about node.js, but if you’re making this argument then you might not want to compare it to the Linux Foundation — it is the exact opposite to being a positive force in the Linux world.

  7. Tree said on February 3, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Does this mean that Facebutt and Twatter will not receive notice that I visit a sight if the bug denoted by an “f” or “birdy” logo on the pages serving as a beacon of snooping?

  8. gwacks said on February 3, 2019 at 7:11 am

    “As a user, I think it would only have any chance of being effective if advertising companies like Google would get their act together”

    As one user, I can’t expect too much from Google and it’s *gangs’* unified actions, either.
    Just check the so-called *Coalition for Better Ads*:

    None of a word upon privacy and users’ rights.

    Sign. Mr.Sunshine

  9. Anonymous said on February 3, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Bloody hell that is quite a comment. Almost as big as Martin’s article. Are you trying to steal his glory?

  10. badbanana said on February 3, 2019 at 10:00 am

    we wouldn’t be in all this blocking if advertiser’s method of advertising is in the 21st century.

  11. Anonymous said on February 3, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    >I like Mozilla’s approach to tracking as a webmaster as it does not block advertising outright and speed up the death of sites like mine.

    I tried to disable adblocker here.
    I have DO NOT TRACK header set!!!!!
    I have third party cookies blocked!

    And you still asking me about “Managing your choices”! WTF?

    1. John Fenderson said on February 4, 2019 at 5:40 pm

      @Anonymous: “I have DO NOT TRACK header set!!!!!”

      You should know that setting is entirely worthless, though. Sites get to decide whether or not to honor the setting, and nearly all sites that engage in tracking opt to ignore it, unsurprisingly.

  12. Anonymous said on February 4, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    Yes, I know. I don’t care so much for ads as for privacy and annoyances. Advertisers/site authors don’t want me to see their not targeted ads… My adblocker is “on” again :(

  13. Mike said on February 5, 2019 at 2:30 pm

    Twisted Tracking Definitions
    Fact: Monopoly Google tracks everyone around world-wide web. Eliminating third-parties increases Googles advertising revenue.

    Fact: Google and Facebook force ‘techniques to improve the security of client authentication’. These personalized identity techniques allow them currently to pull-in 80% of Internet advertising dollars!

    Martin wrote: ‘if user activity data is collected and stored, used or shared by third-parties, it is tracking.’
    This statement SHOULD read:
    if user activity data is collected and stored then used for other purposes (under which it was given), then it is tracking.

    Google is controlling most web-sites, so third-party tracking is in actuality a Red-Herring! We all all being tracked across the Internet by first party Google.

    Internet users should give personal information for TRUE security purposes (like signing-on for financial transactions).
    Instead the Internet has morphed into a crazy monopoly system of Google using ‘the security of GOOGLE services’ as pretext to eliminate competition, track and sell advertising into every aspect of consumers lives.

    Note: Google analytics is ‘hidden’ within googletagmanager

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