Firefox Releases Privacy-First Browser Update, Taking Aim at Facebook & Google
“Privacy” is certainly a common theme of tech companies in 2019.
While it seems like it’s been around forever, the internet is still relatively new technology. It used to be a place to read current news and maybe play online games. Now, it’s become where we shop, do our banking, research topics, interact with friends and family, and more.
In turn, there is more of our personal data out there than ever before. With several data privacy scandals making news over the past year, people are starting to notice and become uneasy with it. Even for those of us in the marketing world who rely from this data collection, it can still seem a bit creepy just how much data can be collected.
To provide internet users more options of how to protect themselves and their data, Firefox has announced a new update that offers a privacy-first browser experience to align with its “Firefox Personal Data Promise”.
In the announcement, the company not only introduces new features that help protect your data while browsing, but also calls out Chrome and Facebook for misleading the public and “using personal information as currency.”
The new features are intended to set a standard for online browsing that protects information by default, and puts the privacy and protection of its users before profits.
Marketers should keep a close eye on this news — as the fight for enhanced data protection isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Think about your current campaigns, how much data you’re collecting, and how much is really helping your marketing initiatives. What, if any, data would you be able to do without?
Firefox’s Privacy-First Features
All of Firefox’s new features are in-line with its new Personal Data Promise, which includes three core values: Take Less, Keep It Safe, No Secrets.
These initiatives are described further in the image below.
Clearly, Firefox is trying to differentiate itself from the Google’s popular Chrome browser, showing its dedication to providing an online browsing experience that doesn’t come with the expense of giving away personal information.
The company backed up its claims with all-new features that put more power in the hands of its users to control how and when their data is being collected.
Enhanced Tracking Protection Enabled By Default
Even as someone who works in the tech space, I admittedly rarely (okay, never) check my privacy settings — despite knowing first-hand how much information is being tracked at a given moment.
And I’m sure a lot of us are the same. The fact is, potential privacy breaches aren’t felt immediately, so the average person tends to de-prioritise online security. That, and we assume that our browsers will protect us where it matters. But advanced privacy features are often not enabled by default, and most people will not seek to really explore what this means.
As Firefox states:
“The general argument from tech companies is that consumers can always decide to dive into their browser settings and modify the defaults. The reality is that most people will never do that. Yet, we know that people are broadly opposed to the status quo of pervasive cross-site tracking and data collection, particularly when they learn the details on how tracking actually works.”
Firefox also points out that many users believe their data is being blocked from tracking while in Chome’s Incognito mode — but that’s not the case. You may block your browser from recording activity in your search history, but it can still track you.
To combat this, Firefox is turning on its “Enhanced Tracking Protection” feature by default as a standard browser setting.
“Enhanced Privacy Protection” (as explained by the video below) means that the browser will block known “third party tracking cookies” automatically, so you can be sure that no one is “following” you as you search the web.
The browser will also show you who exactly it’s blocking that is trying to access your activity, and the information may surprise you.
Now, anyone who downloads Firefox will have advanced protection without having to turn it on. Firefox will also be rolling out this default setting to existing users soon, but current users can turn this on now by following these steps.
Updated Facebook Container
As we know, Facebook has come under fire several times over the past year for its data collection practices.
Knowing people wanted more options to both use Facebook while protecting their data, Firefox introduced the Facebook Container last year.
“Our Facebook Container is an add-on/web extension that helps you take control and isolate your web activity from Facebook (i.e. following and tracking you across the web).”
In other words, it literally “contains” Facebook’s visibility into your online activity off-Facebook, so it can’t be used for tracking.
Now, Firefox has added an additional protective measure to the Facebook Container that prevents Facebook from tracking you on websites that have embedded Facebook capabilities, like a Like or Share button on articles.
The reason for this additional block is because even if you have other ad blocks in place, Facebook will still be able to know you’re visiting other sites through such embedded elements.
It also makes it more difficult for Facebook to create shadow profiles for non-Facebook users — so if you think you don’t need this because you don’t have a Facebook account, think again!
Additionally, to ensure confidence these features are working, you’ll see a purple fence when the container is in place.
Why Marketers Should Welcome These Changes
I know what you’re probably thinking: Aren’t you in marketing? Isn’t this bad for ad campaigns?
Well, yes and no.
First, these changes, as well as the continued push for anti-tracking measures, will likely have some kind of negative impact on ad performance. For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to your upcoming Facebook campaigns and understand that tracking may be impacted if you’re trying to target off-Facebook activity.
Marketers should pay attention to audience numbers, and if they appear to be dropping, consider that Firefox use may be the cause.
That being said, I think these changes are a push in the right direction in the bigger picture. Although I’m in marketing and reap the benefits of some data collection tactics, I’m also a consumer, and I’d prefer a system that protects information rather than exploits it.
Advertisers used to get a bad reputation for constantly “interrupting” with television commercials, radio ads, and pop-ups. But now, our bad reputation due to invasive hyper-tracking is not only worse, but breaks trust with consumers, turning them off even more from seeing any advertisements.
If we want our ads to be effective, marketers have to find a way to present them in a way that that consumers will be receptive to.
At the end of the day, good marketing is about finding someone who may benefit from your product or service, educating them on the solution and why your brand is different, and ultimately converting them.
I don’t think it’s about having no information, it’s about locking down what is actually helpful and fair-game, and eliminating excessive data that, in all reality, we may not use in the first place.
In general, people don’t necessarily look forward to seeing ads, but good marketing can change that. As a whole, marketers can definitely lean into these changes and work for a middle ground that protects people’s data while also showing them interesting new products and services they may enjoy.