In light of the uproar over online privacy that was kicked into high gear by this month’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Internet browser company Mozilla has released a new Firefox extension that limits the extent to which Facebook can track your web activity.
Given the name “Facebook Container”, this browser add-on does just that – it blocks the social media app from associating the data in your Facebook account and your actions on the site from what you choose to do on other websites, ultimately reducing the barrage of targeted messages and advertisements that appear on your feed.
Third-party Facebook app developers have been able to merge social network information with a user’s overall web-use patterns since 2007, though no new companies have been given access to the data stream since 2014. Yet until recently, no one in the public – nor most insiders at Facebook and other tech companies – were aware of how severe the privacy breach was.
This combination of information, which can be used to build an unsettlingly complex psychological profile of each user, was being harvested from Facebook users by external developers and passed along to any interested party (like shady political campaigners) without any oversight.
Now, Mozilla is hoping that Facebook Container can provide a little peace of mind for users who are concerned but want to continue using the social media platform.
As noted by The Verge, the extension will reduce targeted advertisements, but it would not have been able to prevent the flow of personal data at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica debacle. Any activity within Facebook is still trackable, but ad developers will not be able to see what you look at outside of it."
After installing the extension, every time a user logs into Facebook, the page will open in a special blue-colored tab called the "container tab", but everything within Facebook will work the same as before. If you click on a Facebook share button on a site not within the container, it will be launched within a container tab, though the company notes that Facebook will receive data about where you shared from.
Clicking a non-Facebook link within the tab or navigating to a non-Facebook site will exit you from the container.
It is also important to note that users who login to other accounts using their Facebook credentials may no longer be able to do so. Spotify addicts be warned. Additionally, embedded Facebook comments and post reaction buttons existing in the non-container tab will not work.
“This prevents Facebook from associating information about your activity on websites outside of Facebook to your Facebook identity,” note the Mozilla developers in a press release. “So it may look different than what you are used to seeing.”
The Facebook Container Extension is available here.
For more information on how Facebook Container works, visit the Mozilla blog here.