How to block advertisers creepily tracking you with Firefox

Firefox is my favourite browser. (You can read more about why here.)

One of my favourite features of Firefox is that it lets you (relatively) easily block companies from tracking your every movement around the web.

Although I feel too guilty about using an ad blocker on the web, on the basis that it deprives websites of advertising revenue, I feel quite within my rights to use tracking protection. The message I’m sending to advertisers and websites is that “you can show me advertising, as long as it’s not creepy!”. Once you activate the feature it’s amazing how many ads are blocked.

I won’t get into it in this post, but there are many reasons why advertisers and others using creepy tracking technology to follow your every movement on the web is a really bad idea. If you want to know more, I suggest you have a look at Don Marti’s blog.

The feature is very much still in development, so you can’t just go into the normal “preferences” section of Firefox to enable it. Hence I thought I would write a small guide in case there were people out there who either didn’t know the feature existed, or didn’t know how to turn it on.

How to activate tracking protection in Firefox

Step 1: Open a new tab and type “about:config” into the URL/address bar. (Handy tip: press “Ctrl” + “L” to focus Firefox on the address bar quickly.)

Step 2: Press “I’ll be careful, I promise” button.

Step 3: This list of text looks a bit scary, but you don’t have to be an expert to turn on tracking protection! In the search bar at the top of the page type in “tracking”. Find the line which says “privacy.trackingprotection.enabled”. The default state is for it to show “false” in the value column. Double click on the row, and it should become bolded and the value should change to “true”.

Step 4: To test that tracking protection is on, go to a website, and if Firefox has blocked something tracking you, a little shield will appear. Try a few websites just to make sure.

firefox-tracking-protection

You can click on the shield for more information. In rare cases, tracking protection can break pages on the web. For instance, I’ve found sometimes embedded videos sometimes don’t load with tracking protection enabled. If you think tracking protection is causing problems, you can disable it on a site-by-site basis by clicking under the options “Disable protection for this site”.

Firefox tracking protection 1

4 thoughts on “How to block advertisers creepily tracking you with Firefox”

    1. I think it’s because when you browse in private mode (at least in theory) advertisers shouldn’t be able to track you effectively in any case – as all your data, cookies etc get deleted at the end of the session…So not much point in blocking tracking.

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      1. The only thing private browsing mode does is isolate your sessions, cookies and other site-specific data. Websites can still track you, it would just be under a different profile.
        That can possibly be linked back to you with various browser fingerprinting techniques, IP address or behavioural tracking. It’s entirely logged by ISPs anyway.

        Private browsing is more of a placebo, if anything. Meant to hide stuff from other users. In the end, it provides a false sense of security. It’s not actually that private.

        Though, having just tested it, tracking protection does actually work in private mode.

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    2. It works just find for me in Private Browsing.
      Are you sure you checked on a page that tracks? Try CNN.com (I see the shield).

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