We are familiar with the good practise of clearing browser cookies and caches when:
- using a public computer
- experiencing errors while loading a site
- our browser is getting less responsive
- we don’t want websites tracking us
Something not generally known is that cookies are stored in a place where they can be freely accessed and read by different websites. Even when someone has opted not to be tracked across websites, this can happen with third party services that provide convenient functionality like content sharing or shared-logins.
For those looking for greater privacy safeguards of their online behaviour, try Firefox-86.
Firefox-86 creates separate ‘cookie jars’ for each website and its third party services. This means third party services are now blocked from looking for ‘their’ cookies in a previously shared location to identify users across different websites.
Here is a visual representation of Mozilla’s nifty solution:
Total Cookie Protection creates a separate cookie jar for each website you visit. (Image from Mozilla | Illustration: Meghan Newell)
Why this matters?
In 2009, about 30% of users regularly deleted cookies every month. To address the growing number of lost cookies, a variety of new ways have been devised to profile users through persistent elements cleverly ‘hidden’ in browsers or in files on computers.
Sometimes referred to as supercookies, these do not get cleared as easily and are even able to respawn deleted information in cookies and caches. Firefox-86’s ‘cookie jars’ approach makes it very much harder for these supercookies to work.
Traditional cookies have a size limit of 4KB. Other tracking methods have very much larger limits of 100KB and 5Mb! Here’s a table showing the differences between just three tracking methods (there are more):
To recap visually, here are where ‘standard’ cookies and supercookies are located:
Here’s a good summary that shows how much is stored in browsers & on computers for tracking. This is a comparative review of tracking practices on the top 100 websites in 2009 and 2011. Take note of the number of cookies set by these 100 websites.
To turn on Total Cookie Protection
Click on the shield icon once you’ve downloaded / updated to the new Firefox browser and then select Protection Settings.
Click on the Strict radio button.