Mozilla has introduced a lot of tracker blocking protections into Firefox lately. Now, it is planning a new feature that will let you see how many online snoopers you’ve successfully evaded.
A new feature called the Tracking Protections Panel (aka the Protection Report) will tell users how many trackers Firefox blocked in the prior week, giving them a good sense of how well these protections are working.
To help understand why Mozilla is doing this, it’s worth looking at the tracker protections Firefox has recently added.
Mozilla released the full version of its Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) system in Firefox 67.0.1 in June. This introduced default blocking for cross-site trackers, which are the small pieces of code embedded in websites by advertising networks. They watch what you’re reading across the web to generate a profile of you.
Mozilla simultaneously released an updated version of its Facebook Container to stop the social media giant tracking people in a similar way. Those share and like buttons you see on various sites? They tell Facebook what you’re reading across the web – whether you click them or not. The updated container blocks those, along with all other connections to Facebook’s servers.
Around the same time, it also officially introduced fingerprint blocking. Fingerprinting is a sneaky technique that websites use to uniquely identify users without using cookies. It does that by measuring things like the colour depth of their machine and the dimensions of their browser windows.
The Protection Report
The Tracking Protections Panel/Protection Report will feature a graph showing users how many trackers their browser has blocked each day. It will break them down into their various types, including ad trackers, cross-site trackers, fingerprinters, and cryptomining scripts.
Finally, the report should tell you how many times Firefox ran across a tracker that a social media site used to follow you across different third party websites and squished it. The results should be illuminating.
The Protection Report feature isn’t out yet. Right now, there’s a mockup in the Nightly build of Firefox 69, which is an in-development version of the browser. You’ll be able to see it by typing
about:protections into your Firefox address bar, but only if you download the Nightly build manually.
This is more than just a reminder of what the browser is doing to protect you from online snoops. It will also help you find a balance between privacy and functionality. Mozilla offered cross-site tracker blocking as an option in Firefox 63, released in October 2018, but it took a while to turn it on by default. That’s in part because blocking trackers by default might hinder the functionality of some sites. The Protection Report will help users measure their privacy against their surfing experience and adjust accordingly.