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

Featured

Slideshows

EDGE 2018: Kiwis kick back with Super Rugby before NZ session

EDGE 2018: Kiwis kick back with Super Rugby before NZ session

New Zealanders kick-started EDGE 2018 with a bout of Super Rugby before a dedicated New Zealand session, in front of more than 50 partners, vendors and distributors on Hamilton Island.‚Äč

EDGE 2018: Kiwis kick back with Super Rugby before NZ session
EDGE 2018: Kiwis assess key customer priorities through NZ research

EDGE 2018: Kiwis assess key customer priorities through NZ research

EDGE 2018 kicked off with a dedicated New Zealand track, highlighting the key customer priorities across the local market, in association with Dell EMC. Delivered through EDGE Research - leveraging Kiwi data through Tech Research Asia - more than 50 partners, vendors and distributors combined during an interactive session to assess the changing spending patterns of the end-user and the subsequent impact to the channel.

EDGE 2018: Kiwis assess key customer priorities through NZ research
Show Comments