Already known for its privacy protections, the Firefox browser is about to get even more private thanks to a new cookie-restricting feature announced by Mozilla on Tuesday.
The design change, labeled “total cookie protection,” aims to better protect against online tracking by limiting the ability of websites to limit cookies created by third-party services. According to a Mozilla blog post, access to a particular cookie is limited to the website that placed the cookie on a user’s browser, so a cookie created by a website or service cannot be read by other websites that a user uses. visits.
Mozilla’s blog post describes the new feature in terms of a separate “cookie pot” for each website, which prevents trackers from linking user behavior to multiple sites. The message explains:
Every time a website, or third-party content embedded in a website, places a cookie in your browser, that cookie is limited to the cookie jar assigned only to that website. No other website can reach into the cookie jars that aren’t theirs and find out what the other websites’ cookies know about you… This approach strikes the balance between eliminating the worst privacy features of third-party cookies – in particular, the ability to track you – and allow these cookies to fulfill their less intrusive use cases (for example, to provide accurate analytics).
The cookie protection feature is part of an ongoing privacy-focused development strategy by Mozilla, with Firefox also continuing to support the most advanced forms of ad blocking, unlike Google Chrome. As for cookies, Google already announced in 2020 that it would phase out third-party cookies within two years, but later pushed the target date back to 2023.
Mozilla described the need for improved cookie protection and cited several examples of tracking abuse, including Facebook’s digital tracking of student loan applicants and the sale of visitor data to Planned Parenthood. The blog post also references a popular Last week tonight episode where John Oliver targeted data brokers.
Mozilla’s chief security officer Marshall Erwin said: The edge that the organization wanted to give users control over their own data and provide greater protection against misuse of it.
“Internet users today are trapped in a vicious circle where their data is collected, sold and used to manipulate it without their knowledge,” Erwin said via email. “Total Cookie Protection breaks that cycle by putting people first, protecting their privacy, giving them a choice, and cutting off Big Tech from the data it sucks up every day. The feature offers Firefox’s strongest privacy protection to date and is the result of years of work to curb online tracking.”
It may take more than cookie protection to curb the savage data intake from the big tech companies, but blocking third-party tracking will certainly bring clear privacy gains.
The new cookie protection feature is now available in the latest version of Firefox desktop. Mozilla is working on a different timeline for mobile rollout, Erwin said, although the technology is already available in the privacy-focused “Focus” version of the Firefox browser on Android. The technology could not be released on iOS due to App Store rules that favor Apple’s browser engine over alternatives, Erwin said.
Despite developer objections and allegations of anticompetitive practices, Apple continues to require all browsers for iOS to be built on the WebKit browser engine, meaning it’s difficult for any browser to significantly differentiate itself from Safari. Aside from the browser restrictions, Apple has received praise from privacy advocates for its aggressive measures to block tracking in iOS applications.