Menu
Users get more control over data in latest Firefox beta

Users get more control over data in latest Firefox beta

Users and websites will be able to manage what data is sent to other websites

Mozilla is adding new capabilities in the beta version of Firefox 36 to give users and website owners more control over what data, if any, is sent to other websites during browsing.

When a user navigates to a new website by clicking on a link or pulls an image or video file from another site, the browser typically sends the new site the address of the page that referred it. It's useful for webmasters to see where someone has come from but a privacy worry since other sensitive data can be revealed.

"As the Web got more complex, the amount of information in the referrer header ballooned, leading to bigger privacy problems," wrote Sid Stamm, principal security and privacy engineer at Mozilla.

Just earlier this week the U.S. government health insurance website HealthCare.gov was found to be sending personal data such as zip codes, income levels and whether users smoke or are pregnant to external sites via referral data sent to trackers in the website.

To help users keep control of such data, Mozilla has been working on changes to Firefox's Gecko rendering engine to make it easier for users or browser extensions to control referrer data.

And it has created a feature called "meta referrer" in the Firefox 36 beta that allows webmasters to include a tag in HTML documents specifying a referrer policy and what data can be sent.

For example, a policy can be set that strips the referrer header of a path, query string or fragment, Stamm wrote. Other policies can block all referrer information, he wrote.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation called the HealthCare.gov incident a major privacy concern since companies could use it to create profiles for targeted advertising.

But it's unclear if the referrer problem with HealthCare.gov will be fixed. Aaron Albright, director of the Media Relations Group for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, wrote via email there is no evidence that third-party companies have misused the information. It was unclear if the issue would be fixed.

"We will remain vigilant and will continue to focus on what more we can do to keep consumers' personal information secure," Albright wrote.

In 2010, Facebook made technical changes after was found sending a person's user ID in a referrer when a person clicked on an advertisement, potentially allowing a company to identify a specific user. Facebook labeled the issue an "unintentional oversight."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacybrowserssoftwareapplicationsmozilla

Events

Featured

Slideshows

Channel kicks 2021 into gear as After Hours returns to Auckland

Channel kicks 2021 into gear as After Hours returns to Auckland

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar with a bumper crowd of partners, distributors and vendors descending on The Pantry at Park Hyatt in Auckland to kick-start 2021.

Channel kicks 2021 into gear as After Hours returns to Auckland
The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

Hundreds of leaders from the New Zealand IT industry gathered at the Hilton in Auckland on 17 November to celebrate the finest female talent in the Kiwi channel and recognise the winners of the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) 2020.

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards
Show Comments