Mozilla keeps improving its browser by introducing interesting novelties. The latest one that we heard about today was the plan to strip the path information from the referrer when a user visits third-party sites using Firefox 59 Stable. The new feature is only available in the browser’s private browsing mode. This means that the information of the site where the click is performed will not be sent when visiting a third-party page. That is, if we are browsing the web and click on a link, the new webpage will not know where that click comes from.
Firefox 59 will not send data when clicking on a link
Web browsers provide information to sites when connections are made. Part of this is the referrer value that holds the path of the site. This is exactly what Mozilla tries to get rid of with Firefox 59, although it will only work with the private browsing mode.
When we click on a link, its URL is sent as the referrer by default. The data reveals information to sites. While this is usually limited to the full URL of the page the user comes from, it sometimes may include critical information that users may not want to share with other sites.
There have been some cases, like when the Electronic Frontier Foundation discovered in 2015 that the site healthcare.gov was sending personal data to third-party sites through the referrer.
The data revealed the user’s age, zip code, income, etc. While this might not be enough to identify a user, we have to consider that sites may access a user’s IP address and other information as well.
Firefox 59 will not allow webpages to receive this data. Sites will only know the main domain where the click was performed. The real webpage’s information or any other information related to the URL will not be sent.
Private browsing mode
This only happens in the private browsing mode. Firefox users can use the special browsing mode by clicking on Menu and on New Private Window, or by using the shortcut Ctrl-Shift-P.
Add-ons provided Firefox users with options to strip or delete referrer values for a long time.
Users who want to strip the referring information in the regular browsing mode may use extensions such as Smart Referer, which does that.
Firefox is one of the most used browsers. Lately, we have seen how Mozilla has worked on important changes that have made their browser able to compete head to head with Google Chrome in terms of speed. The introduction of Web Extensions was also key. Many users have decided to bet on this browser as their default one.