Firefox tracking prevention HTTP header on the cards

Mozilla may introduce a universal online tracking prevention system that will better protect people’s privacy by blocking advertisement-based tracking, if a recent proposal is approved and implemented.

Alexander Fowler, head of Global Privacy and Public Policy at Mozilla, blogged about the suggestion, which came from his department as part of a draft Privacy & Data Operating Principles document.

The feature will employ a Do Not Track HTTP header which will automatically alert websites that the individual in question is requesting an opt-out of the online behavioural advertising tracking that is pervasive across the web.

Rather than using blacklists and cookies to block things, a HTTP header could allow the feature to be turned on or off for any participating site quickly and efficiently. This approach would make it easier for users to block tracking, but it needs the web browser and the websites themselves to work in unison, which may be harder to achieve in reality.

The move appears to be an attempt to get in before Microsoft does. Microsoft announced in December that it was adding tracking prevention to Internet Explorer 9, a feature that was originally slated for Internet Explorer 8 but was pulled after complaints from advertisers.

The announcement from Microsoft appeared to be a clear attempt to steal back market share lost to Firefox over the years by featuring better privacy protection, but if Firefox gets the same feature, in a potentially more universal form, it seems that Microsoft will need to find another way to lure people back.