If you have wondered how ads keep popping up on your monitor that relate to some of the sites you had recently visited, it is based on a technology called “canvas fingerprinting.”
This is very common with almost all browsers except the Tor browser, which is largely used by dark web users and their associated communities.
However, Mozilla Firefox is incorporating a feature where canvas fingerprinting on its browser is not permitted unless a user expressly permits it.
This is an interesting development, since Tor itself runs on the back of the Firefox browser, borrowing several of its features. This time, it would be the reverse.
Private Browsing Experience is Critical Factor
Behind this latest move by the Firefox browser is the need to provide users absolute privacy and to prevent advertisers from bombarding messages on their screens that would distract their attention.
More than anything else, there is also the predominant demand from internet users that it should be left to them to choose which pages they wish to visit and what products they want to buy and when.
The aspect that concerns internet users the most is that canvas fingerprinting happens without their knowledge. It is an entirely different preposition when you visit a site and you voluntarily leave your details, like contact numbers or email IDs, and you are contacted later with commercial messages that try to convince you to buy something.
This is a downright invasion of your privacy, and this step by the Firefox browser is expected to be widely welcomed all-round.
Browsers Driven by Revenue
Ultimately, it becomes a tossup between offering free services and building a revenue model into the offering.
Practically every service provider in the online space keeps toying with the idea of collecting some fee for the services they provide.
In most cases, this is very difficult to implement since the end-customer is used to enjoying website features for free and there is always competition willing to offer these commodities at no cost.
In this particular instance as well, the browser collects some charges from advertisers who embed the code into their browsers and track the sites visited by the users of the browser.
Incidentally, the Firefox browser is owned by a non-profit organization, the Mozilla Foundation, which does not depend on this revenue.
As such, it is able to implement this privacy feature on its browser without any qualms.
Firefox Browser 58 to Carry the New Feature
According to the latest reports on Firefox’s bug tracker platform, the 58th version of the browser will have the update to include the new canvas fingerprinting denial feature.
The new feature may include a Mozilla bug tracker as well.
This would show a popup each time a website you visit wishes to employ the canvas fingerprinting technology to extract information from it. The user can decide whether to allow or deny this permission.
This is not very different from the experience one gets while using the Tor browser.
There’s a popup that asks if Tor should allow the website to extract HTML5 canvas image data. The “Not Now” button gives the user the freedom to choose.
Observers point out that this is not the first time that the Firefox browser has attempted to borrow a feature from the Tor browser.
In its version 52, there was the similar fingerprinting denial in the case of system fonts.
Some Question the Move as Well
While any effort to improve online privacy is not generally disputed by average internet users, there are those who are not so amused by this development within the Firefox browser.
The reason for this is the general perception is that the very nature of the Tor browser is such that it is a fully encrypted browser and is seen to be catering to a particular section of the community.
The need for similar levels of privacy to the normal browsing public is not appreciated by these critics.
They also refer to some of the existing features in browsers like Chrome, where there is a browser extension called Canvas Defender. The Chrome extension gives the option to pick and choose websites that you don’t want to part your data with.
Even the Firefox browser has a similar add-on facility called Canvas Blocker.
But whatever your individual opinion is on the issue of canvas fingerprinting, the Firefox browser is going ahead with its version 58, facilitating the new feature.
If you are not keen on the new feature, you can always switch to the other browsers available.