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Understanding Firefox’s Newest Privacy Update – Part 1

Nearly everyone is concerned about online privacy and protecting their personal information in cyberspace. The Pew Research Center found that 93% of adults say that being in control of who can get information about them is important. These concerns are becoming more prominent and even tech giants like Facebook, Google and Apple are responding. On June 4, Mozilla Firefox rolled out, perhaps the most aggressive privacy measure to date, that includes enhanced tracking protection by default for all new users who download and install Firefox. But what exactly does this mean?

Tracking is how online advertisers target ads to audiences most likely to engage with a product or service. For summer camps, it’s the data we use to generate leads and present ads in front of prospective campers and parents. If someone Googles “academic summer day camps,” tracking allows us to show the person relevant ads for a camp they may be interested in. Firefox’s Private Browsing with Tracking Protection actively blocks content like ads, analytics trackers and social share buttons that record behavior across sites.

Additionally, Firefox offers features to enhance privacy beyond general internet tracking. The Facebook Container web extension helps users isolate their web activity from the social network beyond its own platforms. This means that Facebook will not be able to target someone with ads for flight deals to Maine if they were just googling travel tips for New England.

Tracking protection and private browsers are not new in tech. In 2017, Apple made a commitment to online security when Safari introduced privacy feature that prevents tracking. Chrome also rolled out Incognito mode that erases browsing history but does not prevent third-party tracking. However, these privacy settings are optional, not the default. Firefox argues that many users are not tech-savvy enough to go into their browser settings and control their online privacy. Only 3% of their users’ customized privacy settings when the features were first introduced in 2017. In an age when privacy is declining, Firefox is making security easy. For digital and social media advertisers, this bold move will have unforeseen implications.

A digital advertising world without tracking ability is random. Internet users will see random ads-if they don’t have an ad blocker turned on-for things that they may not want or need. A retired woman in Iowa could see an ad for men’s speedos while a twelve-year-old boy searching online for skateboards could get one for luxury mink furs.

There are a few ways the tracking blocker could help online advertising. Since ads are randomized, businesses will reach clientele they wouldn’t have targeted otherwise. Although these are unlikely consumers, it could boost brand awareness and possibly generate new leads. Additionally, the ad blocker further segments your audience. Advertisers will only get data from those who don’t have an ad blocker and allow tracking. These are people who want you to have their data and are probably more willing to click on an ad and make a purchase.

The Firefox updates could have minimal consequences depending on who your target audience is. Is your audience early adopters? Are they tech savvy? Do they care if their child’s summer camp has the information publicly available on Facebook? Further, only a small portion of those in cyberspace use Firefox. Only 8.96% of laptop and desktop users and 1.55% of mobile users search in Firefox according to Net MarketShare. However, it is possible that more will switch to the browser for the privacy features. Mozilla said that more than 635,000 people have signed up for Firefox Monitor since its release. With a Google Analytics account, you can see a breakdown of site visitors by browser by going to Audience>Technology>Browser.

Tune in next week for Part II to find ways that advertisers and summer camps can adapt.

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