Mozilla's New Firefox Extension Will Try to Stop Facebook from Tracking You

But wouldn't have stopped the Cambridge Analytica incident


Mohamed Ahmed Soliman |

Mozilla Firefox has a new extension to prevent Facebook from tracking your online habits.

Capitalizing on the fears surrounding Facebook privacy, Mozilla has designed the "Facebook Container," a Firefox add-on that blocks Facebook from tracking users when they click on ads or links that take them off the site.

Facebook currently uses a program called Pixel to collect information on how users engage with the site. When users click on links, they visit external sites but are still logged in to Facebook's platform. These outside sites will contain "share" or "like" buttons, and when users engage with these functions, this activity is connected to their Facebook identity. That's how Facebook is able to fine-tune its advertisements to its users. While this is a well-known practice, many aren't aware that their behaviors outside the core function of Facebook are tracked.

But when people using Facebook Container click a link on Facebook, it loads in a seperate blue tab that isolates users' activities from the core site. In these blue tabs, users will not be logged into Facebook, which prevents further data collection. Users do have the option to continue to use the "share" and "like" buttons, but Mozilla notes that these activities may still be tracked. The extension doesn't prevent data collection, but it offers users more control over their privacy.

"Facebook can continue to deliver their service to you and send you advertising," Mozilla explained in its announcement about the extension. "The difference is that it will be much harder for Facebook to use your activity collected off Facebook to send you ads and other targeted messages." The company acknowledges that the "type of data in the recent Cambridge Analytica incident would not have been prevented by Facebook Container. But troves of data are being collected on your behavior on the internet, and so giving users a choice to limit what they share in a way that is under their control is important."

While other people pound their fists and clamor for more regulations, Mozilla reminds us that sometimes the quickest way to address a technological problem in the private sector is with a technological solution in the private sector.