More private browsing? Firefox gets tougher on cookie tracking with new 'total' protection

But do web users care about privacy enough to use Firefox over Chrome?

Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, has rolled out a feature called Total Cookie Protection as part of its Enhanced Tracking Protection "Strict Mode" that promises to stifle cross-site tracking. 

If you're bugged by companies using cookies to track your online activities across websites, Mozilla might have an answer.  

"Total Cookie Protection confines cookies to the site where they were created, which prevents tracking companies from using these cookies to track your browsing from site to site," Mozilla says in a new blogpost

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The feature is available as part of Firefox's feature called Enhanced Tracking Protection.

Mozilla argues that most browsers allow cookies to be shared between websites, allowing marketing folks to "tag" a browser and track the user as they browse across sites. 

"This type of cookie-based tracking has long been the most prevalent method for gathering intelligence on users. It's a key component of the mass commercial tracking that allows advertising companies to quietly build a detailed personal profile of you," Mozilla says. 

Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) last year to Safari via its WebKit project in order to block all third-party cookies in Safari by default.

Mozilla embarked on its own take on this technology to tackle the online ad businesses in 2019. Privacy is one of the key pillars that Mozilla is using to differentiate itself from a web that's increasingly dominated by the Chromium project, which has seen even Microsoft migrate its Edge browser to Google's browser

Mozilla says the Total Cookie Protection provides a separate "cookie jar" for each website that's visited. 

"Any time a website, or third-party content embedded in a website, deposits a cookie in your browser, that cookie is confined to the cookie jar assigned to that website, such that it is not allowed to be shared with any other website," Mozilla says. 

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Cookies, however, are useful for purposes such as logging in easily to a website that was visited in the past. Mozilla's Total Cookie Protection will support this use of cookies. The exception is based around an expression from the user that they intended to use a particular site. 

"Total Cookie Protection makes a limited exception for cross-site cookies when they are needed for non-tracking purposes, such as those used by popular third-party login providers," Mozilla notes.  

"Only when Total Cookie Protection detects that you intend to use a provider, will it give that provider permission to use a cross-site cookie specifically for the site you're currently visiting. Such momentary exceptions allow for strong privacy protection without affecting your browsing experience."