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Firefox: The Browser for Privacy?

We often praise Google Chrome – it is fast, secure and regularly updated. There’s one area where it’s lagging behind, however: privacy. In fact, with Firefox’s useful new cookie policy, it could be considered the default browser for added privacy.

Within the next few weeks we should see a new version of Firefox that automatically blocks third-party cookies – a big threat to your online privacy. While these “cookies” aren’t illegal – in fact, they’re a big part of online marketing – they do transmit a lot of your personal data to online marketeers.

A “cookie” is a piece of data that is stored on your computer to remember something about your using habits. For example, if you choose to login to a website, it will store a cookie to remember that your user account has signed in. This is how the website knows that you’re still signed in when you load different pages.

Cookies also have an important marketing use, however, that can be quite intrusive. Have you ever browsed an item on a shopping website, and then noticed that the item is appearing in advertisements on different websites? That’s because the original site placed a “cookie” to remember that you looked at that item, and now it’s following you around the internet. Personally, I find it a bit creepy.

In Firefox version 22, this type of tracking could be a thing of the past. Third-party cookies – cookies from website you haven’t actually visited visited – will be blocked from being saved by default. This means that if you Facebook, you’ll still be logged in (Facebook’s first-party cookies will still work), but the advertisers will be unable to place cookies and follow you around the internet.

This makes a big difference to advertisement tracking companies, because you’ve never visited their websites for them to set cookies. That means their tracking data won’t work, and so you won’t be followed around by advertisements or have your browsing details sold on to other companies.

If you don’t like the idea of third-party cookies, you can block them on your browser in the following ways:

Google Chrome:

In Chrome, click the options icon in the top right (it used to be a wrench but it’s now three lines). Then choose Options, “Under the hood” and click “content settings” next to Privacy.  Finally, choose “ignore exceptions and block third-party cookies from being set.”

 Internet Explorer:

If you’re running a recent version of Internet Explorer (8 or above), block cookies by going to Tools on your menubar, then select Internet Options, Privacy and Advanced. Choose “Block” under Third-party Cookies and click OK twice.

Current Firefox:

Select Tools on your menubar, then choose Options, Privacy. Uncheck “accept third-party cookies” and click OK.

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