Mozilla Firefox Update - Third Party Tracking Is A Thing Of The Past
A few weeks ago, yes I'm a bit behind on my news, Mozilla announced details of its forthcoming Mozilla Firefox update. With this update, Firefox will actively block all third party trackers, in an effort to give users' more control over their digital lives, while taking proactive steps to keep its users' safe on the web.
What are 3rd Party Trackers:
These run in the background of each web session, and collect general internet activity data, such as websites that you visit. This data is then sent to advertisers, allowing them to "target" you with specific ads based on your recent activity.
Unlike cookies, which allow your favorite websites to remember your previous browsing activity, such as logon information, a third party tracker creates a multi-website database of a non-logged in, or anonymous, users' activities. This allows them to gain a clearer picture of an individuals activities online, and can include devices owned by the individual, as well as email addresses.
Third party trackers can come in one of two different flavors, single site and multi-site tracking.
Single site trackers, of which Google Analytics is one, keeps all website data separate from one another. They store data within what is called the First Party Cookie. These are cookies that are labeled with the name of the website being visited. This cookie will only be called when you return to the site that the cookies is labeled for. It is isolated and will never follow you on your travels across the internet.
For example, if visits to WealthyAffiliate.com, Jaaxy.com, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all assigned their own unique tracking IDs. This process is better for user privacy as it prevents trackers from being match up the data to create a picture of the users' activity online.
Multi-website trackers are the privacy breakers, as they are the ones that keep an ever growing inventory of a users' website activity, and it is the multi-website trackers that have come under serious scrutiny. These trackers store the data it collects in a third-party cookie that has been named after the tracker, instead of the website, like with First Party cookies.
This simple change makes a drastic difference in how the cookie works. Instead of it being called only when you visit the site it is named after, your internet browser automatically appends data requests from each and every site you visit, to that one tracking cookie. Provided the sites use the same tracking software.
How these Multi-Website Trackers Affect You:
Multi-website trackers are seen as an invasion of personal privacy. An unknown entity, possibly even multiples, running a tracker that you didn't even know existed, gaining access to large amounts of data relating to what you do online. What sites you visit, what products you look at, which devices you access the internet from, and more.
This Rolodex of data is then sold to advertisers so they can then target you with products that match the preconceived picture of who you are in the online word. If you have ever wondered why you see ads related to products you have been searching for recently, odds are these evil little trackers are to blame.
What these Changes Mean:
With increased concerns over user privacy online, including the GDPR privacy changes that went into effect earlier this year, companies are taking a proactive, instead of reactive stance to protecting their users' online.
Prior to these changes, users' would have to manually go into their browser settings and manually disable third-party tracking cookies. But if you are not aware cookies like this even exist, then how are you supposed to know that a change like this should be done.
I myself, having spent many years in the IT field, was completely unaware of these cookies, and a quick check of my current Firefox settings showed it. The default selection of "Always" has since been changed to "Never".
Elimination of these trackers will help speed up website loading times, resulting in a better user experience. According to the article "If you haven't already switched to Firefox, do it now" from FastCompany, Mozilla will be testing this change throughout the month of September to see if there is truly a correlation between speed and trackers.
This change will also help to protect users' from fraudulent cookies designed to form an invisible identification fingerprint based on the device used, that will allow a cryptocurrency script to run without the users' knowledge.
This Mozilla Firefox update does not mean that you will no longer be able to share your information with advertisers, should you choose to. But as a Firefox user for many years, I would much rather be the one in control of my data, than someone else.