Person Holding a Phone With Firefox App Displayed on the App Store
31 Jan 2019 14:00

New Privacy Features Unveiled in Firefox 65 Update

Mozilla releases latest Firefox update with redesigned settings that help users to take greater control of their online privacy

Charlotte Darrell
By Charlotte DarrellStaff Writer

Popular open-source web browser Firefox has undergone some privacy-enhancing changes for its version 65 update that goes some way to allow users to choose how their online data is handled.

The new update focuses on Content Blocking, allowing users to choose between three privacy preferences which allow them to block certain trackers and website cookies: ‘Standard’, ‘Strict’, and ‘Custom’.

The ‘Standard’ setting blocks ‘known trackers’ in Private Browsing Mode, whereas ‘Strict’ blocks them in all windows. These trackers are taken from a list created by privacy software company Disconnect.me – a Mozilla partner.

Users who choose the ‘Custom’ setting are granted “complete control to pick and choose what trackers and cookies they want to block.”

Some websites require trackers and cookies to be enabled in order to function correctly, so blocking them can cause some sites to ‘break’. The update’s aim is to let users strike a better balance between privacy and breaking websites.

The ‘Strict’ and ‘Custom’ settings come with a warning that it may cause certain websites to break, but also gives users the opportunity to whitelist sites they trust, meaning that each trusted website’s trackers will remain enabled.

Mozilla originally introduced opt-in tracking protection with the announcement of Firefox Quantum in September 2018, and said in a recent blog post: “We’ve always made privacy for our users a priority and we saw the appetite for more privacy-focused features that protect our users’ data and put them in control,

“We knew it was a no-brainer for us to meet this need. It’s one of the reasons we broadened our approach to anti-tracking.”

Other features included in the new update are: support for AV1, a royalty-free video compression technology for Microsoft Windows users, and a revamped Task Manager that allows users to more easily find out why a specific web page is taking too long to load.

While Firefox is upping its privacy offering, not everyone takes the time to look into default browser settings and change them according to their needs.

Some VPNs offer browser extensions for Firefox, giving users a lightweight version of the desktop app with better performance and enhanced privacy for browser users who may not wish to use a full-featured VPN.

The extensions themselves aren’t always VPNs, but proxies whose protection capabilities are limited to that particular browser, meaning that other apps on the device won’t be protected.

Proxy browser extensions offered by VPN providers come with varying levels of security. HTTP browser extensions merely change your IP address, for example, leaving your internet traffic visible to third parties, while HTTPS extensions ensure that it is encrypted.