Mozilla ramps up privacy in Firefox 70 with a new report on cookie tracking and data breaches

Mozilla’s mission to make Firefox the go-to mainstream privacy-focussed browser is beginning to take shape.

Mozilla today released Firefox 70, which introduces new security indicators for HTTP and HTTPS sites, and builds uponFirefox 69’s default Enhanced Tracking Protectionthat blocks third-party tracking cookies and browser-based cryptominers.

Firefox in the 1990s and early 2000s played an important role as an alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but these days it’s been overshadowed by Google Chrome and Chromium-based browsers, the most recent of which is Microsoft’s new Edge browser.

Chrome has 2 billion active installs, while Firefox has just 250 million monthly active users,according to Mozilla’s latest figures.

But Mozilla still thinks it can shape the future of the internet by focusing on privacy and security. Alongside overhauling the guts of Firefox under project Quantum, Mozilla has focussed on differentiating Firefox through security and privacy features, such as the Firefox Monitor data breach alert service.

The next new privacy feature is the “privacy protections report” that Mozilla compares to the information available drivers in modern dashboards.

“Similar to a car’s dashboard, we created an easy-to-view report within Firefox that shows you the extra steps it takes to protect you when you’re online. So you can enjoy your time without worrying who’s tracking you, potentially using your data or browsing history without your knowledge,” says Mozilla’s Dave Camp.

The report can be accessed from a new shield icon next to the padlock icon in the address bar that indicates a site is using the HTTPS protocol. At the bottom of the dropdown menu after clicking the shield icon, Firefox users can view how many social media trackers have been blocked for each day during the past week.

The feature is meant to help users understand how frequently sites they visit result in companies like Facebook and Twitter tracking them on subsequent visits to other websites.

The report also contains details about Firefox Monitor and instances an email address is being monitored, known data breaches that exposed a user’s information, and any passwords exposed in breaches.

The report page is an entry point for signing up to Firefox Monitor and the Firefox password manager called Firefox Lockwise, which shows how many passwords have been stored with the service as well as manage devices being synced through the service.

Mozilla claims that since in the past three months Firefox Enhanced Tracking Protection has blocked more than 450 billion requests to track Firefox users around the web, equal to about 10 billion per day.

The changes are aimed at exposing so-called ‘dark patterns’ or tricks that websites use to dupe users into singing up for things unintentionally and boost user numbers.

“The industry uses dark patterns to push people to “consent” to an unimaginable amount of data collection. These interfaces are designed to push you to allow tracking your behavior as you browse the web,” said Selena Deckelmann, senior director of Firefox engineering at Mozilla.

“Firefox’sData Privacy Principlesare concise and clear. We respect your privacy, time, and attention. You deserve better. For Firefox, this is business as usual. And we extend this philosophy to how we protect you from others online.”

Mozilla’s Lockwise, formerly known as Lockbox, has been in incubation for the past year and allows users ro sync logins from Firefox tothe Lockwise appfor iOS and Android. It was launched in May.

The two new features rolling out today include a password generator with improvements to the dashboard for managing passwords and integrated updates on breached accounts from the Firefox Monitor service.

To access Lockwise, users need to click on the hamburger (triple bar) menu on the right of the browser and click on “Logins and Passwords”. A tab will poe allowing users to search, sort, create, update and delete passwords for accounts. It will also display a notification from Firefox Monitor if an account has been breached.

Finally, Mozilla hasupdated its HTTPS and HTTP security indicators in Firefox 70. It no longer displays the name of an entity that uses an extended validation (EV) SSL certificate, which are commonly used by banks. All HTTP sites now have a padlock with a strike-through icon, while HTTPS sites have a grey padlock icon.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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