Firefox adds Tracker Blocking
Mozilla recently added tracking protection as an option for its private browsing mode, taking Firefox one (baby?) step further than other major browsers when it comes to private browsing. We at Abine were makers of “Do Not Track Me” for Firefox (now merged into our premier privacy service called Blur) consider adding tracking protection in private browsing mode a smart move. It is part of making Private Browsing live up to its own name.
Private Browsing modes in all major browsers (IE, Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox) have been largely a misnomer for a decade, since the growth of ad-tech. Private browsing (smartly code-named by some journalists and public as “porn mode”) was designed mainly to protect against someone (usually a spouse, family member, or co-worker) from accidentally stumbling across evidence of your Web browsing history. For this, it works well.
Private Browsing also stopped cookies from being used by web sites – but cookies left the main stage of ad-tech tracking a long, long, time ago. Instead of relying on cookies left in the browser, the ad-tech industry inserted “Tags” or “Trackers” which are simply small lines of code on the servers of the Web sites you visit daily (put there with the sites permission in order to sell more effective ads). The average site has around 11 of these different trackers on them. These trackers send data about your visit to various 3rd party advertising and analytics companies. Tracker blocking gives your browser a list of these trackers, and a set of rules to make sure your browser doesn’t send them information.
Going back to the online viewing of pornographic content “use case” as an example, one could go to adult sites in Private Browsing mode and no one who used your computer would know… but potentially hundreds of companies would know exactly what sites you visited, when, and what you watched. Does that seem private?
So it’s pretty simple, really. If browser vendors want to continue to label Private Browsing ‘Private’, they should follow Mozilla’s lead with Firefox and at a minimum allow users to educate themselves when they select Private Browsing, and opt-in to a tracker blocking service – either built-in to the browser, or via a popular extension like Disconnect, Ghostery, or Blur (our solution at Abine).
Of course, better online privacy is not just about who can see which sites you visit. It’s increasingly about your personal information. Personal information includes the sites you log in to, who you give your email to, who you give your phone # to, and where you shop online – even with what credit card you use. All this information is more directly tied to your identity than trackers tracking your browsing.
The increased tracking of your personal info is why we built Blur – to protect your passwords, payments, and privacy – all at once.