Mozilla’s latest version of the Firefox browser,
released Tuesday, includes a new privacy mechanism that enables people to hinder device fingerprinting — a controversial tracking technique.
The tool, which is turned off by default, works by
blocking specific domains that are
believed to deploy the technology.
Companies, including ad-tech businesses, sometimes use digital fingerprinting to recognize website visitors. The technique involves identifying users based
on data about their computers, such as browser versions, installed fonts and plug-ins.
Firefox says digital fingerprinting violates its policies, which prohibit the use of
“unintended identification techniques.”
The browser company adds that techniques like digital fingerprinting “are not under the control of the browser’s state
management settings,” and therefore “can not be easily cleared or reset by users.”
Privacy advocates and other watchdogs have long raised concerns about digital
fingerprinting. The standards group World Wide Web Consortium, directed by Web guru Tim Berners-Lee, warned in 2015 that digital fingerprinting — along with other forms of
tracking that are difficult for users to control — was “a blatant violation of the human right to privacy.”
Mozilla isn’t the only browser developer taking aim at fingerprinting. Google said
earlier this month it plans to “more aggressively restrict” digital fingerprinting, while Apple said last year it will thwart fingerprinting by limiting the amount of data it sends to
websites about users’ devices.
The ad industry criticized Apple’s move
last year, arguing it will impede targeted advertising and make security tools less effective.