February 26, 2013

Mozilla: Firefox 22 to Auto-Block Cookies by Default, Undertakes Online Privacy


The free and open source Web browser from Mozilla, Firefox, which is widely used according to the latest Global Statcounter data and usage share of the market, has announced that it will, like Apple's Safari Web browser, block all unwanted third-party cookies by default.

At present, users are able to manually disable cookies in Firefox, but in version 22, which is due out for release this summer (in June) with a pre-beta version coming out this spring (in April), there will be a patch written by Jonathan Mayer, a graduate student at Stanford University, that will set the browser’s cookies to automatically turn off; it will be up to the user to enable cookies (turn them on), to reset the browser and set it to accept a cookie.

This new feature to be incorporated in Firefox 22 is designed to block cookies from third-party advertisers; consequently, it makes it possible to prevent users from being tracked online.

Mayer has provided insight on some of the recent questions and answers about the new Firefox cookie policy and the code change to automatically disable the browser’s Internet cookies.

Firefox 22 will be worth updating if users want to avoid having advertisers collect data about them when they navigate the Web. All it takes is one cookie set to give third-parties permission to serve up ads that are targeted to the users’ activities and interests; so to overcome this, one can configure Firefox not to accept cookies or set up which sites are allowed to set cookies. Version 22 has this upcoming change in the default cookie-handling policy, which will benefit those that look for online privacy and don’t want to worry about settings.

Brendan Eich, Mozilla's CTO, sees the change necessary, and Asa Dotzler, the Firefox desktop product manager, agrees that “[they] are trying to make tracking relationships more obvious to the user."

Mozilla’s new policy has created a war between advertisers and some browser makers. With no real big concerns addressed by Firefox users, as the cookie change can easily be undone within the browser’s privacy settings–on Firefox’s general Options menu, the only issue foreseen by Mozilla is if there will be a significant loss in the number of users who update to version 22 as a result of its ability to auto-block third-party ad cookies by default.  Unfortunately, only time will tell what will come of it.




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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