In a move seen as a swipe at Chrome, Firefox is continuing its fight against Facebook and Google’s online ad tracking empire. The browser, owned by Mozilla, will now block third-party tracking cookies by default. This Enhanced Tracking Protection will be automatically turned on for all global users as part of the standard setting. The improved privacy features have been trialled on new users since June 2019, and currently cover 20 per cent of users. From today, this will increase to 100 per cent of people using the Firefox.
Also blocked by the new protections are cryptominers: a type of malware that infiltrates your computer and leeches computing power and battery to mine cryptocurrencies. This feature was previously on offer in Firefox Nightly and Beta, but will now be included in the standard mode by default. When the feature is enabled, a shield icon in the search bar indicates that the website’s cookies are being blocked. Users will be able to see all of the third party cookies that are being blocked, and adjust this if they wish to give certain companies a carte blanche.
Mozilla launched Firefox 69 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Firefox 69 includes third-party tracking cookies and cryptomining blocked by default, performance improvements on Windows 10, and better battery life on macOS, and it asks for permission before turning on Flash.
Firefox 69 for desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically. The Android version is trickling out slowly on Google Play. According to Mozilla, Firefox has about 250 million active users, making it a major platform for web developers to consider.
In August 2018, Mozilla announced Firefox would block trackers by default. Firefox 63 arrived in October with Enhanced Tracking Protection, blocking cookies and storage access from third-party trackers. Firefox 65, released in January, added Content Blocking controls with three options for the blocking.
Cryptomining and fingerprinting
As part of its crackdown, Mozilla also wanted to tackle cryptomining, which uses your CPU to generate cryptocurrency for someone else, and fingerprinting, which builds a digital fingerprint that tracks you across the web. The company started to test blocking cryptomining and fingerprinting in April. Then the options to block each one arrived with Firefox 67 in May.
Firefox users can access these options by either clicking on the small “i” icon in the address bar and clicking on the gear on the right side under Content Blocking or by going to Preferences, Privacy & Security, and then Content Blocking. From there, select Custom and check “Cryptominers” and/or “Fingerprinters.” Both were off by default. With Firefox 69, cryptomining is now blocked by default as part of the Standard setting. Firefox 69 also blocks fingerprinting as part of the Strict setting, and Mozilla plans to turn it on by default in a later release.
Windows, Mac, and Linux
Enhanced Tracking Protection aside, Firefox 69 brings a few other notable improvements. Firefox desktop users can now block autoplaying videos that don’t have sound. Windows 10 users can also expect improved performance, while macOS users can expect better battery life.
With Firefox 69, the browser will now always ask for your permission before turning on Flash content. This is ahead of Flash’s planned death in 2020.
Here’s the full Firefox 69 for desktop changelog:
- Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) rolls out stronger privacy protections. The default standard setting for this feature now blocks third-party tracking cookies and cryptominers. The optional strict setting blocks fingerprinters as well as the items blocked in the standard setting.
- The Block Autoplay feature is enhanced to give users the option to block any video that automatically starts playing, not just those that automatically play with sound.
- For our users in the US or using the en-US browser, we are shipping a new “New Tab” page experience that connects you to the best of Pocket’s content.
- Support for the Web Authentication HmacSecret extension via Windows Hello now comes with this release, for versions of Windows 10 May 2019 or newer, enabling more passwordless experiences on the web.
- Support for receiving multiple video codecs with this release makes it easier for WebRTC conferencing services to mix video from different clients.
- For our users on Windows 10, you’ll see performance and UI improvements. Firefox will give Windows hints to appropriately set content process priority levels, meaning more processor time spent on the tasks you’re actively working on, and less processor time spent on things in the background (with the exception of video and audio playback). For our existing Windows 10 users, you can easily find and launch Firefox from a shortcut on the Win10 taskbar.
- For our users on macOS, battery life and download UI are both improved. macOS users on dual-graphics-card machines (like MacBook Pro) will switch back to the low-power GPU more aggressively, saving battery life. Finder on macOS now displays download progress for files being downloaded.
- Various security fixes
- As previously announced in the Plugin Roadmap for Firefox, the “Always Activate” option for Flash plugin content has been removed. Firefox will now always ask for user permission before activating Flash content on a website.
- With the deprecation of Adobe Flash Player, there is no longer a need to identify users on 32-bit version of the Firefox browser on 64-bit version operating systems reducing user agent fingerprinting factors providing greater level of privacy to our users as well as improving the experience of downloading other apps.
- Firefox no longer loads userChrome.css or userContent.css by default improving start-up performance. Users who wish to customize Firefox by using these files can set the toolkit.legacyUserProfileCustomizations.stylesheets preference to true to restore this ability.
- For Enterprise system administrators that manage macOS computers, we begin shipping a Mozilla signed PKG installer to simplify your deployments.
- For our mobile web developers, we have migrated remote debugging from the old WebIDE into a re-designed about:debugging, making debugging GeckoView on remote devices via USB rock solid.
- The new event listener breakpoint feature allows developers to pause on a host of different event types, whether it be related to animations, DOM, media, mouse, touch, worker, and many other event types.
- Firefox Developer Tools now offers an audit for the presence of text alternatives for non-text content, the a11y panel checks toolbar has been augmented to better help developers adhere to WCAG Guideline 1.1.
If you’re a web developer, you’ll want to get more details here: Firefox 69 for developers.
Android and iOS
Firefox 69 for Android is a minor release. That’s because the Android team is mainly focused on Firefox Preview.
Firefox for iOS also received an update today. The changelog is quite short:
- Firefox for iOS v19 introduces Enhanced Tracking Protection. Users will benefit from protections against ad, social, and analytics trackers.
- This release also introduces a Tracking Protection Shield Icon in the navigation bar. Users can click this icon to see the number and type of trackers blocked on sites they visit.
Mozilla releases new Firefox versions every six to eight weeks, and Firefox 70 is currently slated for mid-October.