Good and bad cookies
What will this mean for you as a Safari or Firefox user? Hopefully, the end of that nagging feeling that advertisers know your every move desire and have a product ready to sell to you.
But both Apple and Mozilla know that cookies serve a useful purpose to make the browsing experience personalised to your needs. They will try to distinguish between the good and the bad ones. Either way, in future you are more likely to be asked for permission when clicking on a “like” or “share” button on a website when there’s a cookie sitting behind it.
Blocking tracking pixels and cookies won’t eliminate adverts on websites – they just won’t be as aggressively targeted at you. Numerous ad blockers exist as web browser plug-ins and apps if you want to totally eliminate ads from your browsing experience.
The goal is not just privacy but performance. With some websites hosting dozens of trackers, they can be slow to load which reflects badly on the web browsing software itself.
Firefox and Safari go a giant leap further with these updates than the market leader, Google Chrome, which is estimated to claim well over 50 per cent of the browser market. Microsoft’s Edge browser has opt-in tracking blocking tools, but its usage is low compared to its rivals – in single figures in terms of market share.
Chrome has long had its incognito mode, which anonymises your browsing when it is enabled. However, claims have emerged that Google is still able to identify you and link you to your Google account ID when in incognito mode.
But Google, fundamentally, derives its revenue from advertising so will be loathe to go down the path of Firefox or Safari, which have no vested interest in facilitating advertisers to target you and amass data about you.
Google’s approach instead has been to target ‘bad ads’ – which degrade website performance, often because they are written with inefficient scripts or contain bloated tracking technology that is easy to detect and strip out.
Moving to automatic blocking of tracking technologies goes far beyond that and is unlikely to come to Chrome any time soon.
In the meantime, the new versions of Safari and Firefox will be worth checking out if you want to limit your exposure to the Facebook and Google data gathering machines. They won’t completely halt the data harvest – your activity in apps on your phone, for instance, is all tracked by the app makers and you need to allow some tracking functionality to make these services useful.
But as the #deletefacebook movement rolls on with some steam, many are, for the first time, actively considering how to protect their privacy and there are more tools than ever to turn to.
More on Safari 12 features and availability
More on the new upcoming Firefox privacy tools and existing Firefox privacy tools, such as the Facebook Container add-on
Third-party privacy plug-ins worth checking out – Ghostery and Privacy Badger.