How Firefox’s improved tracking security prevents websites from spying on you

Websites have been tracking our cookies and spying on our online habits for years. Isn’t it about time we give something back?

No, don’t spy on the entities that spy on us, but learn which websites are trying to watch in our digital lives. Well, now you can by using Firefox’s enhanced tracking security. But before we get into how to set it all up, let’s take a look at why you should.

How do websites track you?

If you pay close attention, you will find that you are being followed all over the internet. You come to a site that sells shoes. You click on a pair and then leave without buying them.

Suddenly you see advertisements for these shoes on just about every website you visit. Even on Facebook.

This is a way websites follow you† You can thank cookies for this. No, not the one you eat. These are small text files that collect your tracking informationsuch as your IP address, device and browser type.

Each time you visit a website again, it recognizes you based on your cookies. This way you can continue searching where you left off without an account. Or buy items in a shopping cart that you have previously abandoned.

It may sound great and very useful, but there is a dark side to everything.

Cookies can be bad for your health

There are two types of cookies floating around the web: first-party and third-party. First-party cookies are like the ones we discussed – cookies that help improve your web browsing experience.

Then there are the third-party cookies, which can be a bit sinister. Rather than coming from the website operator, they are made by other entities that you have no idea about. You also have not consented to the collection or sharing of your information.

These entities place cookies all over the web, allowing them to collect all kinds of data from users. Some even use algorithms to create a “profile” of users that can be sold and used to advertising agencies.

If you’re like most people, you don’t want your data to be used against your consent to convince your logic or your wallet. So it’s best to learn about the different types of entities that collect and track your data.

Who is responsible for the cookie crumbs?

There is a sleuth of entities making cookie crumbs on the internet. Just like in the real world, it attracts all kinds of creatures. Here’s a quick rundown of the culprits behind all this crap:

  • Social Media Followers: Sites like Facebook don’t just track your activities on its network – they track you around the web (even if you don’t have a profile with them!)
  • Cross-site trackers: These types of cookies track you from site to site and collect data about you without your knowledge or consent. These are considered third party cookies.
  • crypto miners: These are people who mine digital money (also called cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin). They store scripts on your computer to suck up your energy and power to help with their mining process
  • Content trackers: If you’re sharing content from another site (like YouTube), the embed code comes with trackers. This can degrade your site’s performance.
  • Finger printers: These are sites that collect settings data from the browser you use in order to develop a profile about you. It can track your browser, extensions, operating system, device model, screen resolution, network connection, and even the fonts your computer has installed.

So what can you do to protect yourself from these data miners?

Improved Firefox Tracking Protection

Firefox has always boasted of being on your side. They have and adhere to a strict privacy policy.

If you’ve never messed with the settings in your Firefox browser, chances are you’re already covered. When you first download the browser, it automatically blocks third-party tracking cookies.

You know that Firefox’s enhanced tracking protection is activated when you visit a site and see the shield icon (“i” icon) next to the URL. Note that this is how you can tell if a site is following you or not.

If you are an established Firefox user and want to make sure this feature is enabled, do the following:

  1. Click on the three horizontal lines at the top right of your screen.
  2. Go to privacy protection and click the level of protection acceleration
  3. Select Customization
  4. Click the arrow next to Cookies
  5. Check the box in front of third-party trackers

6. You can also select: the boxes you want to block, such as cryptominers, tracking content, and fingerprints.

Use Firefox’s privacy report to see your blocked trackers

Now for the fun part, which is finding out who is trying to spy on you without your permission. You need to download Firefox 70 or later for this to work.

Once you have that, follow these steps:

  1. Click the shield in the address bar (grey if Firefox doesn’t detect trackers on the page and purple if it blocks trackers).
  2. Select show report to see what types of trackers (and how many) have been blocked in the past week.

Firefox also takes your privacy a step further with its Facebook Container Extension† This prevents Facebook from tracking users on the Internet. It works by blocking built-in Facebook capabilities, such as Share and Like buttons on a site.

Facebook has recently been ripped off for developing user and non-user shadow profiles, which is creepy to say the least.

Protect your anonymity while browsing the web

There was a time when someone liked to browse the web without being targeted by advertisements or hunted by crypto miners and shadow profile collectors.

Finally, there is a way to regain this peace of mind. So try these Firefox tools and techniques for enhanced tracking protection to protect yourself from data collectors.

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