In newest version of the Firefox web browser, users will be given the ability to block canvas fingerprinting, a new tactic websites use to track your online activity.
For many years, Firefox earned a reputation for being the safest and most secure web browser on the internet. As competition between browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and Safari stiffened, the company may again lean on security with version 58 of the browser, in its bid to win back users.
Firefox 58 comes out in January of 2018, and gives users the ability to deny tracking through a new method of online tracking called canvas fingerprinting.
Canvas fingerprinting is a technique used for tracking online activity by websites and advertisers. Data can be pulled from an HTML5 canvas element to identify and track users, which goes relatively unnoticed by most mainstream browsers. While the method can’t identify a user in the traditional sense, it can create a profile of a user based on browser, operating system, and even the kind of installed graphics hardware in use. Over time, this can create a effective tracking profile.
Canvas fingerprinting first earned attention back in 2014 when it was discovered that a wide assortment of major websites and advertisers were using the technique to identify and track online activity.
The situation is not dissimilar to the way advertisers often rely on cookies to track the online behavior of users, stored in the web history of their browsers. Now that most modern browsers block cookies, advertisers have turned to techniques like canvas fingerprinting to follow you around the internet.
As awareness around the issue of internet privacy has increased in the past few years, demand for more extensive tools for protecting oneself will continue to rise. If Firefox’s move is a sign, mainstream browsers are now catching up to bring this protection to the masses.
Firefox isn’t exactly first to the dance, though. Security-focused web browsers like the Tor Browser have allowed users to block canvas fingerprinting for years now. As pointed out by Forbes, there’s also browser plug-ins and apps that provide similar protection for both Chrome and Firefox users.