Firefox ships Total Cookie Protection to all users (Image Credit: Davide Carpani on Unsplash)Firefox has announced and shipped Total Cookie Protection. It’s a major privacy enhancement to its browser. It aims to prevent websites’ widespread abuse of cookies to track you as you move around the Internet. It is not just about tracking you. The information can also be used to build a very complex picture of your online behaviour.

One of the problems with trying to block cookies is that websites use that to deliberately degrade the user experience. The only way to gain functionality is to allow more tracking. Additionally, many hide their use of cookies behind phrases like Legitimate Interest. It is a thinly veiled excuse to give hundreds of vendors access to your computer and data on some websites.

What is Firefox doing?

Firefox is changing the way that cookies are stored and accessed. At present, cookies are all placed into one directory on a computer. That means that whenever you visit a website, it can read through all your cookies for interesting information.

With Total Cookie Protection, Firefox stores the cookies from each site in a site-specific directory. Each site can only see its cookies, not those from other sites. Importantly, for advertisers, they cannot simply scan other cookie directories to see where else you’ve been. Just as importantly, deleting cookies from any given site is as simple as deleting the directory.

For users, this is extremely helpful. It means that they can make site-by-site decisions over the use of cookies. Many already do this, but under the hood, their choices are eroded by cookies from other sites. This ringfencing stops that. It also means that if you have to allow cookies for functionality, you know they are limited to just that site.

Firefox also sees this as a natural extension of the existing privacy protection they already offer customers. They have been trialling this approach for some time now and have now decided it is time to make it available to all. Importantly, that availability is by default. There is no need to go in and customise Firefox to gain this capability.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean?

Privacy is a problem on the Internet. Everyone wants your data, and they’ll often use any sleight of hand to get it. It’s virtually impossible to use any large site these days without some data grab. Even if you reject all the areas where they might use cookies, they still get you with “Essential” cookies.

This move by Firefox sets them apart from other privacy browsers. It means that when you have no choice but to accept cookies, you still have a safety net. Using separate folders and then relying on permissions to stop developers from trying to traverse the file directories to find other cookies is clever.

What happens next will be interesting. How long before we see companies mark Firefox as a non-standard browser and refuse to run in it? How long before someone tries to find a way around the sandboxing? More importantly, how long before other browser vendors deliver their own version of this?


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