Mozilla Firefox has just expanded its range of features made to protect user privacy, this time attempting to tackle the issue of websites tracking you around the web. Whether we like it or not, the sad reality is that many web giants add trackers to URLs, which then allow them to monitor your online activity.
Added in Firefox 102, the new Query Parameter Stripping should address that problem in a substantial way — although we’re still far away from a complete fix.
The new privacy feature will not be enabled by default, but once you do enable it, it will begin stripping tracking parameters from URLs. Many companies add their own query parameters to outbound links listed on their websites. Adding the query parameter enables the company, be it Facebook (Meta), HubSpot, Marketo, or Olytics, to track clicks and subsequently, your web activity.
As an example, Facebook adds its own tracking to outbound links with a “fbclid” query, while Vero uses “vero_id=.” This often results in a long link, made much longer only for the purpose of tracking your web activity. Firefox will strip the links of all the nonsense and leave you with the raw URL that you actually want to visit. This will certainly remove a whole lot of trackers, but Brave still has the upper hand here, blocking even more than Firefox does.
Enabling the feature will allow Mozilla Firefox to remove the following tracking parameters from your links:
- Facebook: fbclid=, mc_eid=
- Vero: vero_id=
- Drip: __s=
- Olytics: oly_enc_id=, oly_anon_id=
- HybSpot: _hsenc=
- Marketo: mkt_tok=
How to enable Query Parameter Stripping in Firefox
The new feature is part of Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Protection, similar to the recently introduced Total Cookie Protection. In order to enable it, go into your Firefox Settings, click on Privacy & Security, and then toggle the Enhanced Tracking Protection to Strict.
Browsing in private mode, the feature will be disabled even if you enabled it otherwise. In order to activate it in private mode, type about:config in the Firefox address bar, then search for strip, and then toggle the privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode setting to true.
If you’ve activated the feature and want to give it a spin, BleepingComputer prepared a test page that contains links to various websites with the query parameters added at the end. Once you’ve enabled Query Parameter Stripping, Firefox should automatically remove the trackers, sending you off to example.com with no extra additions. BleepingComputer also notes that browsing with this feature enabled might cause some issues, so if you’re running into problems, you’ll have to disable it until Firefox finds a fix.
Firefox seems to be trying to niche down and maximize browser security and user privacy, which is something similar to the Brave browser. After once being one of the browsers responsible for dethroning Internet Explorer in the early 2000s, Firefox has slowly slipped into near-obscurity as Google Chrome started to dominate. According to Statcounter, Google Chrome holds the largest market share with 64.95% as of May 2022, followed by Safari with 19.01%, and Microsoft Edge with 3.99%. Firefox trails behind in fourth place with just 3.26%.
While Firefox’s glory days might be long gone, the browser still stands strong and presents an agreeable alternative for users who value browsing privacy. It might not top the charts, but it’s still among the best browsers available right now.