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Security & privacy

Popular browser getting major security TOR-like upgrade

Back in 2014, a new method for online user tracking was discovered and it was found to be a more persistent form of tracking people’s behavior on the web.

Typically, sites and advertisers know what sites you click on and when by installing “tracking cookies” on your computer whenever you visit a site. Cookies are very common and you’ll find them on most sites. However, they’re also easy to block using your browser settings.

Now, this newer method of tracking does not use cookies at all. With a combination of a machine’s unique configuration and a modern browser’s HTML5 image rendering capabilities, advertisers can build and track user profiles without leaving identifiers that can be deleted.

This technique is called “canvas fingerprinting” and although it’s definitely a clever method of tracking users across devices, it raises serious privacy concerns, as well.

To alleviate some of these concerns, the Mozilla Foundation aims to improve this popular browser’s privacy by giving users an option to block canvas fingerprinting altogether.

How does canvas fingerprinting work?

Canvas fingerprinting is currently a widely used HTML5 technique for user tracking and it is available in all major browsers including Chrome, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge.

Basically, when a website has canvas fingerprinting, it can track and follow a user by instructing the web browser to draw a unique hidden image that can then be used as an identifier.

Since each image is rendered slightly different depending on a machine’s distinct graphics configuration, they can be used to track users across gadgets without the need for browser cookies.

In fact, canvas fingerprinting is better than using browser cookies since it can track users even when they are using a browser’s private or incognito mode.

Firefox 58

Starting early next year, Firefox 58 will give users the option to block browser canvas fingerprinting. With this change, Firefox users must give permission to trackers before data can be shared.

Firefox’s canvas fingerprinting blocking option is directly related to a similar Tor browser feature. Since Tor is based on Firefox code, new features are often shared between the two browsers.

Since Firefox 58 will not arrive until at least January 2018, if you want to block canvas fingerprinting now, you can install Firefox add-ons like CanvasBlocker. Chrome users can also install canvas fingerprinting blocking extensions such as Canvas Defender.

How to stop ads from following you around online

Do you want more tips to stop online ads from following you? Click here to learn more.

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