Last week Monica Chew, formerly of Mozilla, and Georgios Kontaxis, of Columbia University, published a paper detailing the proposed new Firefox Tracking Protection technology. With Tracking Protection enabled they found that they received 67.5% fewer cookies and reduced page load time by an astonishing 44% while browsing the Alexa top 200 news sites. Despite these impressive results, Tracking Protection remains deeply hidden in the browser's most obscure settings system, and is not on track to be offered even to Firefox's beta users for testing and improvement. We agree with Monica: Firefox needs to enable Tracking Protection—at least for users who enable Private Browsing mode—and make it an easy option in all cases.
In her blog post, Chew flags the need for Mozilla's management to ensure that this essential protection reaches users, and to recognize that "current advertising practices that enable 'free' content are in direct conflict with security, privacy, stability, and performance concerns." Since advertising industry groups flatly refused to respect the Do Not Track header as a privacy opt-out from data collection, the only line of defense we have against non-consensual online tracking is our browsers.1
Safari and Internet Explorer have taken important steps to protect their users against web tracking: Safari blocks third party cookies out of the box, and IE offers a prominent tracker-blocking option. But mainstream users of open source browsers are out of luck. Until that changes, our Privacy Badger add-on for Firefox and Chrome remains perhaps the only one-click solution for users who want to protect their privacy as they browse the web. Since Privacy Badger requires no configuration, we encourage any user who is concerned about online tracking to add it to their browser.
We eagerly await the day that advertisers respect user's requests for privacy and for browsers to implement their protections by default. Until then users can protect themselves with Privacy Badger.
- 1. Although advertising and tracking industry groups refused to honor Do Not Track requests, EFF has been working to propose a way for individual companies that offer real opt-outs to avoid being blocked by Privacy Badger and other tracking protection tools.