September 4, 2018
Mozilla announced that future versions of its Firefox browser will automatically block tracking codes placed by advertisers, third parties or any other company that is not the website publisher. Also blocked will be trackers that take too long to load. Best of all for users, they will not have to download or install new software or change settings to enjoy this increased privacy. According to Mozilla, the new feature is already being tested and will be included in a Firefox version later in 2018.
Wired reports that, “the features aren’t designed to block ads, but may prevent some from being displayed, because the ads include tracking scripts that take too long to load.” Currently, Firefox users who want to block tracking must open a “Private Browsing” session, whereas the new features are “switched on by default.”
Blocking slow-loading trackers distinguishes Mozilla’s move from Apple, which also blocks third-party trackers but doesn’t include this feature. Wired compares Mozilla’s new features as “similar to those offered by plug-ins such as Disconnect or Privacy Badger,” and “in fact, Mozilla relies on a list of trackers created by the Disconnect team.”
Firefox product lead Peter Dolanjski referred to Mozilla’s research on user behavior, saying “by enabling these features by default, we can protect many more users.” Mozilla is also considering blocking a new form of pop-up ads that “appear over web content without opening a new window or tab have become popular,” although Dolanjski said the company is “researching whether it’s possible to block” them. For those who want to help Mozilla, the company is providing a plug-in to report these pop-ups.
Wired notes that, “Mozilla’s approach is more aggressive than the ad-blocking now baked into Google’s Chrome browser, which only blocks ads on pages that engage in particularly obnoxious advertising and isn’t focused on protecting privacy.” Microsoft now bundles Adblock Plus with its Edge mobile browser, but it is not enabled by default.
Though “Firefox will be the most widely used browser to block trackers by default,” StatCounter revealed that it only has 5 percent of the share of the global browser market, vs. Google Chrome’s 60 percent share and Safari’s 14 percent. It did not share statistics for Brave, a privacy-centric browser founded by former Mozilla chief technology officer Brendan Eich.