Firefox to block trackers by default

Firefox is now set to block by default the thousands of websites, analytic companies and advertisers that use web trackers to follow the web browsing history of users. The changes are expected to speed up Firefox and keep the web habits of users more private, while forcing advertisers toward less invasive practices.

When it comes to privacy, the default blocking of trackers by Mozilla is good news and follows what Apple introduced in its Safari browser a couple of years ago. The difference between the two settings is that while Apple’s browser blocks nearly all third-party trackers by default, Mozilla limits its blockage to just known trackers collected on a blacklist. Apple’s plan provides more privacy but it also means more headaches for users.

Many websites rely on cookies, a key tracking tool, to keep people logged in or serve them relevant information. By aggressively blocking cookies, Apple’s browser disrupts the experience for users on some websites. Mozilla is striking a middle ground, by only blocking known trackers and not all cookies in general.

A spokesperson for Firefox said the company found that blocking all cookies “leads to scenarios where some websites may not function properly,” and so it chose this partial approach to prevent “potential usability issues.” Anyone who wants more protection can go into Firefox’s settings and change the tracking blocking settings from ‘standard’ — the default setting — to ‘strict’ which blocks all websites using trackers.”

Tracker blocking will be on by default for all new Firefox users starting this week, and it will become the default for everyone already using Firefox in the coming months. If you already use Firefox and want to take advantage of the feature, which has been built-in since October, you can go into settings and enable it before Mozilla flips the switch for everyone.

While Firefox is not leading the pack when it comes to browsers that block trackers, it is still ahead of Google’s Chrome browser, which is just starting to limit tracking. Google has a vested interest in keeping some amount of web tracking alive — the company survives on ads, which are often targeted — whereas Mozilla and Apple do not, so Chrome is likely to continue lagging behind.