Firefox: remove known tracking parameters from URLs in all modes
Mozilla launched Firefox 102 this week, and with it came support for the new query parameter stripping functionality to boost user privacy.
Many sites and services add parameters to the web address for tracking purposes. These parameters do not change the destination of the webpage, but they provide the sites and services with information that they may use for tracking purposes.
Firefox 102 protects users against these trackers by removing them. Problem is, the browser is configured to do so only in private browsing mode or when the strict Tracking Protection mode is enabled.
The default tracking protection mode ignores the parameters, which means that users continue to be tracked by them.
Thankfully though, there is an easy option to enable the removal of tracking parameters when using Firefox.
The following video demonstrates the removal of the tracking parameter by Firefox in normal tracking protection mode.
You may run tests in your browsers of choice by loading http://ghacks.net/?fbclid=1. The tracking parameter, fbclid=1, is used by Facebook. Browsers that have it in their removal list should load the site without the parameter, and those which do not support the functionality, keep the parameter when the site loads.
There are other use cases, and you may use Brave Browser's testing page to test several of them.
Do the following to enable the removal in Firefox with default tracking protection enabled:
- Load about:config in the Firefox address bar.
- Confirm that you will be careful. You may want to remove the checkmark to skip the intermediary page the next time.
- Search for privacy.
- Activate the button on the right to set the preference to TRUE.
Tip: you may want to set privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode to TRUE as well, in case it is not. Setting the preference to TRUE enables the query stripping functionality in Firefox's private browsing mode.
True means, query stripping is enabled in Firefox. You may run the test mentioned above and should notice that the tracking parameter is removed.
The built-in feature in Firefox and Brave uses a list of known trackers; this means, that trackers that are not on the list are not removed. Still, the feature removes tracking parameters by major sites and companies, such as Google, Facebook or Microsoft.
Firefox users may want to enable the feature to remove many known tracking parameters from website addresses in all browsing modes.
Now You: what is your take on this privacy feature?
Google’s utm_source=, etc. is missing from the list of blocked trackers. Firefox’s list seems pretty limited.
Mozilla gets money from Google and tracks users on its own pages with Google’s utm.
Not only that, they also use Google Analytics across their websites and have baked said Google Analytics into Firefox on Android. They also use Google SafeBrowsing and they use Google for the geolocation service of the browser. Firefox actually connects more to Google than some Chromium-based browsers do, which is ironic.
Google Analytics are not used on Mozilla pages — or at least not on their AMO pages (I haven’t checked all Mozilla pages) — when DNT (Do Not Track) is enabled : pref(“privacy.donottrackheader.enabled”, true);
Maybe the only place where DNT is respected.
Otherwise, indeed, Google Analytics is used by default on Mozilla pages as well as Google’s utm as a tracking url. It’s more than a bother, it’s a contradiction to a company’s privacy leitmotiv. This is why, personally, I’ve blocked cookies for Mozilla’s AMO, otherwise nothing prevents the utm tracker, not even the ‘CleanLinks’ extension, given AMO lays itself in the user’s IndexedDB and operates from there : no cookie, no IndexedDB. Pity because a few AMO features are disabled, but I’d rather go on — NOT “hearing your lies than living without you” (Elvis Presley) — BUT missing a few AMO features than having that darn utm tracker smile in the urlbar.
I forgot to mention that if disabling cookie permission for AMO is a necessary condition to block the utm tracker, it is not a sufficient one : an anti url tracking tool (uBO filter or dedicated extension such as CleanLinks) is necessary to block that utm. Both conditions must be met.
I prefer ClearURLs for removing tracking parameters. It’s updated very regularly, and removes them from copy and paste, as well. Though it’d be nice if the non-Google Chrome browsers had this functionality built in.
Better than nothing, but close to an ersatz when compared with what uBlock Origin can block with adequate filter lists.
Here I use,
Actually Legitimate URL Shortener Tool
Actually Legitimate URL Shortener Tool – Affiliate tag allowlist
ClearURLs for uBo
[https://raw.githubusercontent.com/DandelionSprout/adfilt%2Fmaster/ClearURLs for uBo%2Fclear_urls_uboified.txt]
And for tracking parameters which would have played it smart, the ‘CleanLinks’ extension (Firefox) finishes the work.
Amazing all which has to be done in order to try to limit the tracking communities hysterical eagerness.
Thank you very much for the ClearURLs for uBo. Very useful! :]
I’m currently using LegitimateURLShortener.txt in uBlock on both Firefox and Chromium browsers, but it’s good to see this implemented.
Let the Iron Heart’s one man war against Firefox and at the same time claiming to be the free speech promoter by writing nonsense comments begin!
Why should I comment anything? The article and the first comment already summed it up perfectly, it is what anyone following the developments at Mozilla has expected:
1) It’s off by default.
2) The list is short, and weak, and hardly blocks any parameter whatsoever.
3) Google’s parameters that are also the most ubiquitous are specifically excluded.
I have nothing to add to this.
Also, what does your comment contribute to the discussion, exactly? It basically just says that you have a hate boner against me for whatever reason. I am already aware of this and for anyone else this is super-uninteresting. That I am pro-free speech is something you can infer from me enduring your nonsense silently, and not calling for anyone, including you, to be censored. Thought you noticed this already but apparently you didn’t, the usual hate boner was, sadly, in the way.
What does this even have to do with freedom of speech?. Besides, writing nonsense comments is part of freedom of speech, should one want to do that, I personally can’t see why anyone that want to be taken seriously would do that though. As a 50/50 Firefox-Brave user who think Firefox deserves the criticism that comes towards it and mainly the Mozilla management behind it, I don’t mind Iron Heart’s comments, he writes way faster than I do, so I let him speak for some of my views as well, even if I don’t agree with all of what he says, and sometimes he may go a bit over the edge, but so do many, many others as well, but I surely don’t get the problem people have with him as that is more on a personal level against him, than joining and allowing a heated debate against his comments, claims, whatever, to continue on. But then again, todays western world where we once understood what freedom of speech is, I am no longer surprised when people no longer seem to do that after reading comments such as:
“Free speech doesn’t really work if noone changes their views”
…meaning two or more people can no longer have a discussion, a heated debate, and at the end of the discussion respectfully say to each other that they agree to disagree, and that’s all there is to it! No, that is no longer possible in some people’s minds. Instead today one side need to “win” and convert the opponent in order for freedom of speech to “really work”.
@Karl, I quite agree. I’d say : never condemn anyone nor sanctify anyone, neither generalize on an all-good or all-bad judgement on the basis we would have agreed or disagreed a few times in a row . Every comment is to be taken for itself. No one is a genius, no one is an idiot and we all happen to be one and the other. I appreciate your comment.
‘As a 50/50 Firefox-Brave user who think Firefox deserves the criticism that comes towards it and mainly the Mozilla management behind it’
There is a difference between criticising an organisation like normal folks or having an agenda like Iron Heart so as to repeatedly write nonsense comments. There’s a massive difference if one goes looking for it.
Already one Firefox article had comments section removed and there are literally warnings under many Iron Heart comments, to calm down and use proper language. And you know in that Firefox article a regular Ghacks reader mentioned his config regarding shortener list and add-on. You would’ve guessed that user’s name. Now that’s gone.
There is another article recently when he again went whole – free speech promoter, hence sarcasm in my earlier comment. Again there’s a difference between making your point in a good way, ignore stupid comments and write sensibly or atleast try to. Iron Heart behaves like a nonce. Just look at number of comments in last Firefox article by him and many warnings to use proper language. If that’s called free speech and reading comment of yours gives a perception that you’re okay with it, fine.
@Yash, I was expecting a reply to @Karl’s comment as well as to mine, but ignored from who.
I’ll tell you frankly how things move around in my little head, as well maybe as in others.
One, the first, is immediate : like or dislike, be it here a comment.
Then, deeper thoughts when there is repetition of what is liked or disliked : we start engaging in a rule, in a definition and we tend to consider this rule is definitive : we judge.
Third level : Zen. We wonder if our judgement is worth being blind to the best because initiated by the worst (in our view).
What I mean is this : closing doors is maybe not the right way. Of course exasperation exists, but no one is perfect and we may as well exasperate others. For instance I’m sure I exasperate some with my eternal psycho-philosophical often off-topic side-notes… yet people are nice enough not to mention it. I think that trying to think and consider people and things beyond the present, beyond even the repetition of what we like and dislike, is the only way to combine true respect and intelligence : I might not do it by charity but at least for the sake of intelligence am I maybe closer to a better future than otherwise.
So : yes, let us all say our truth, immediately and respectfully, but let this not blind us for the future, isolate us from anyone as well as from any idea because we’ve been first irritated. No one is prefect, not even those who agree on that fact :=) I know what i’m talking about because I tend to get quickly irritated but I’ve encountered too many issues when not liberating myself from a definitive judgement. We judge too quickly. In life, a face, a behavior. I see this with people making the buzz, you know, famous people and so on : what do we know of them? Nothing. I know that I’ve experienced more than once first impressions, good or bad, which later appeared to be not at all in conformity with a given performer interviewed for instance out of the lights of fame… you don’t know people, even after 50 years… so how, why would I consider a judgement based on a few comments being worth of a lifetime decision to consider its author as out of my scope? See what I mean? :=) Written quickly, pardon rhetoric, grammar, spelling!
Okay so last time my comment was meant to @Karl.
Okay so how to put this, it’s not that after reading so many comments from one irritating person on same topic that I’m loosing my cool. It’s more that I really find it amusing.
I can’t think of a scenario where a person would comment(and give valuable time which can be utilised better elsewhere) on the same topic like Iron Heart on Firefox and repeat same nonsense. And like I said in my previous comment, to write comments even after getting warnings to get a grip.
I like everything as I try to think like a journalist(basically to not investigate everything but view things without emotions). I like football but it is not limited to watching modern games only or think only about 90s Serie A or 60s common person’s innocent game. Not the sort of person who would complain oh modern football is all trash or old days were better. Same goes for everything as I like difference in opinions. This probably is the reason why I don’t have a social media account to get tied down into a bubble. Without an account it is much more easier to explore different views. And I don’t block anything. As bad as current GOP is, it is better to understand their view first. I try not to judge. Here’s an example – Djokovic was kicked out of Australian Open due to no vaccine taken against Covid-19. Some will say well millions have taken it, why are you any different? Some will say that’s his body, his choice. I am double jabbed but that’s my choice because I was a biology student in the past. But I respect his position. With twice infected, his body atleast had interaction with virus. It isn’t completely alien to have damaging consequences. No judgement passed. Again I try to think without getting emotions involved.
Having said all that there is a difference between writing something which not everyone will agree with but atleast making good points or straight up repeating nonsense. That doesn’t mean I’m getting irritated. I find it hilarious.
There are number of comments in every Firefox and Brave article stating lies. It doesn’t irritate me. What fascinates me is number of comments Iron Heart wrote in last few articles that now one article has comment section removed and other has multiple – please be polite – messages. Again it doesn’t bother me much as I’m off to ongoing FIDE Candidates but it fascinates me. Iron Heart attitude towards Firefox is similar to Jose Mourinho’s towards possession football. Total denial and I can’t help but chuckle at the mention of words like free speech promoter in previous comments.
My comment can be viewed easily as oh look that guy is getting all edgy. But seriously I’m enjoying Iron Heart’s ramblings as they’re really hilarious and I always wait for more.
* [Editor: try that again, but this time without personal attacks and remaining polite. It is not really that difficult. The word nonce has different meanings, see https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/nonce%5D
Though it’s nice the opt-in is now available to the about:config savvy, the AdGuard URL Tracking filter in the Firefox extension and the for-Windows product has worked quite well for a long time.
Not sure what URL shortening has to do with the core mission of stripping tracking parameters, but AdGuard has a Legitimate URL Shortener, too.
While checking this out I came across another neat hidden setting.
“Firefox offers a native option to choose a separate search engine for private browsing.
To enable this open about:config, choose “Accept the Risk and Continue” if needed. Then set the private search options as follows(search for “search*private” to make it easier):
browser.search.separatePrivateDefault = true
browser.search.separatePrivateDefault.ui.enabled = true
Then go to Options> Search> “Choose a different default search engine for Private Windows only” and select the search engine of your choice in the drop down menu.
After that’s complete, private browsing windows will use the private search engine by default.”
@Tachy, thanks for sharing what I consider as valuable information. I had never heard about it. Appears to be a true feature triggered only from about:config, which is odd IMO : such a feature should be entirely accessible in the Options, not only once it’s been triggered from the about:config pref.
Anyway, given the importance of search engines, given the fact Firefox’s native search engines can be easily disabled but require an extension (such as i.e. ‘Add custom search engine’) to include a new search engine, the information you provide is most valuable. I’m surprised no one has reacted on this information.
Credit where credit is due, I found it here while searching if it was possible.
Glad you found it useful.
This is very strange.
I’ve been using FF with DDG as default SE for a long, long time. After upgrading to FF64 102 and reading this page, I decided to search for browser tracking testing pages. Surprisingly, DDG is returning blanks whenever the search involves the term “tracking.” “Track” is fine, but no “tracking” results. The same terms work fine with Google, Bing, and Brave searches, as should be.
I don’t know if this issue is only with me, has been going on with FF+DDG for sometime, only because of FF102 has this privacy feature, or… what???
It works fine with FF Nightly + DDG on my phone. ???
Okay, results for “tracking” come out if I disable uBlock Origin on DDG…
So essentially the headline should read Firefox eliminates Google’s marketing competition by only allowing the Google trackers.
Every little helps I suppose.
I noticed though that after updating to 102, tabs have had a grey outline added to them if you have the Proton theme disabled. It looks like this on my system: https://i.postimg.cc/63PSkzp9/ff-102-tabs.png
Doesn’t bother me too much anyway.
I think I mentioned this in perhaps another article or perhaps the lead up to this feature being made available to mainline Firefox but this is another great example of why browser cannot be trusted and it is better to depend on decent third party addon/extension developers for such things.
The fact that Mozilla didn’t filter google is no surprise really.
Since we are talking about the config options, here is another neat one that I was sleeping on. I am sure you are all well ahead of me and aware of it but if you like your tabs to open up next to the current tab then rather than use extensions that will open it at the end and then drag it automatically next to the one you were last at you can just have it simply open the tab next to the current without all that mess just the way it used to be.
about:config browser.tabs.insertAfterCurrent set to true
>”Now You: what is your take on this privacy feature?”
Sorry to disappoint you, but….
Ironic how at the end of the video there’s an ad for Opera browser. I wonder what’s their market share, anyone?
Thank you, kind stranger.
Premature and ineffective feature at this time, but it has potential.
It seems to work (remove the tracking parameters), only when I open a new tab and paste the URL in the address bar manually, which is an edge case, I never do that really.
It doesn’t remove the parameters, when I click a URL with tracking parameters, or when I right click a URL and select Open Link in New Tab, or when I highlight a URL, right click, and Open Link in New Tab.
Good work though!
Congrats Firefox, you figured out how to integrate Pure URL to the browser core!
Wait, no, that’s an insult to Pure URL. You can’t even configure the list of parameters to be auto-removed, and it doesn’t even remove utm_source and other Google params.
The bar is set so low, Mozilla, but you somehow managed to be below it. If you really cared about combating tracking, you would’ve done those two in the first place! Or are you intentionally leaving out those features because of Google’s money, as well as the fact that it gives you more excuse to do telemetry? ;)
Ironically this doesn’t remove the garbage tracking parameters from mozilla own site, you try to copy an addon link and instead of:
The two settings mentioned in the article are already set to True on FF 101.1 on my system.
Other than that I often use the context menu item called “Forget about this site” to dump everything known about any given site.
Sorry, that should have been 102.01, not 101.1
Oh..O, the dreaded “You’re posting too quickly…” message just apppeared. :(