Mozilla has released Firefox version 102 with another nifty privacy trick. The browser now prevents companies like Facebook from tracking you around the web when you click on links on their platform. It automatically removes the query parameters from the web address, i. e. URLs.
Query parameters are a piece of code that allow websites to track people across the web. Every time you click on a link, they tell the original site about it. As such, websites will have a bevy of data about you that they can use to serve targeted ads or any other purpose. These parameters appear as a string of characters at the end of a URL, after a question mark.
Firefox version 102 automatically removes the query parameters from the URL when you click off a site. This prevents the original site from seeing what links you clicked on. Bleeping Computer has created a test page to illustrate how the new “Query Parameter Stripping” feature on Firefox works. The page contains several example URLs with query parameters. If you open those URLs in Firefox, a new page opens without the tracking code. For example, clicking on the “https://example.com/?oly_enc_id=12” opens “https://example.com”.
The new Query Parameter Stripping privacy feature on Firefox is optional
The automatic removal of query parameters from URLs is an optional feature on Firefox. You can enable it from the Privacy & Security tab in Settings. Here, change “Enhanced Tracking Protection” from “Standard” to “Strict”. Firefox notes that some websites may not load properly in the Strict mode. If you encounter such problems, revert to Standard.
Also, remember that the anti-tracking feature does not work on Private windows even if you have the Strict mode enabled (via). However, you can manually force it. In the address bar, enter about:config and then search for strip. Now change the privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode option from false to true.
Note that this new privacy feature on Firefox is only available on the desktop app. Firefox version 102 for Android does not have it. The mobile version only gets “credit card autofill” with the latest update. The desktop version, on the other hand, also adds an option to disable the “automatic opening of the download panel every time a new download starts.”
Of course, aside from query parameters, there exist numerous other ways for companies to track your online activities, such as cookies. Thankfully, Firefox has a few tricks against some of those. And if you want a more privacy-focused browser, you can try Brave.