What Firefox Enhanced Tracking Protection Means for Digital Marketers

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What is Firefox Enhanced Tracking Prevention, or ETP?

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The latest update from Firefox will block Third-Party Cookies by default

Mozilla announced on June 4th that they’ll be rolling out a new set of anti-tracking measures on their Firefox browser version 67.0.1 over the coming months. This new update will automatically block third-party trackers by default, obscuring data from users on your site who use the Firefox web browser.

These features are not new to the browser but users previously needed to enable them manually in Firefox browser Settings. This update changes that – as Firefox will now block all third-party tracking cookies by default (in accordance with a “tracking blacklist” compiled and maintained by Disconnect – a third party data privacy firm).

These changes will be starting immediately for users who download the application for the first time, and gradually for existing users over the coming months. As of now, there are three types of content blocking Settings in Firefox:

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  1. Standard: If you’re on the newer version of Firefox, this setting appears a little bit differently than it does above. Instead of blocking Known Trackers in Private Windows, it will now block all third party trackers by default.
  2. Strict: This setting takes the above a little bit further, and blocks all trackers Firefox detects. They note here that this may cause some sites to break.
  3. Custom: Allows the user to customize their privacy settings with more detail, toggling settings such as blocking Cryptominers and Fingerprinters.

What are Third-Party Cookies?

A cookie is a small piece of text sent by a website you visit. Cookies remember information – such as preferred language, safe search preferences, and other settings (Google). To get an idea of how these changes can impact your analytics, consider the following from our previous blog post

…while both Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics have other ways to identify individual users – generally speaking – they most heavily rely on client side cookies to do so.

The other methods we hint at require updates to be made both on-site (which demands development resources) and/or from within the tools directly. More on that later in this post.

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Mozilla has partnered with Disconnect – a third party aggregator of online trackers – to categorize and sort cookies into two groups:

  1. Blocked trackers
  2. Unblocked trackers

While discretion is ultimately up to the Disconnect platform, the trackers that are not blocked are generally ones that they deem to “improve user experience.” It’s safe to say that most/if not all of third-party trackers that feed data into platforms such as Google Analytics and Google Ads, are blocked.

Does Firefox ETP have anything to do with Apple ITP2.1?

While this feature is addressing similar concerns outlined by Apple’s ITP update back in February, there are some standout differences. Chief among them…

… while Safari allows third-party cookies to exist within a 7-day window before automatically purging/refreshing them, Firefox browsers will be blocking these trackers altogether.

The only way for users to opt back into tracking, would be for them to update their settings within the browser and manually white-list sites they deem trustworthy.

What does Firefox ETP mean for digital marketers?

In a nut shell: tracking Firefox users will be more limited, and in some cases impossible for digital marketers.

But keep in mind, as of May 2019, Firefox only represented a little over 5% of global market share in the browser space (as seen in the image below from Market Share Worldwide). This means that ETP isn’t nearly on the same scale in terms of impact when compared to Apple ITP2.1.

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Moving forward, we do expect traffic from Firefox users to decrease in analytics tools though. Even more so when it rolls out to all current users who update their browsers to the latest version in the coming months.

It’s relatively safe to assume that your site’s traffic will decrease gradually by the percentage of users who browse your site using Firefox following the full rollout of ETP. If that number for you is higher than the industry average of 5%, we’d recommend monitoring your browser data more closely to account for the gap in reporting.

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While we’ve listed a few “solutions” to ETP below, we want to first call out a few things; namely that deliberately circumventing Enhanced Tracking Protection (just like with Apple ITP 2.1) can be perceived as going against the user’s wishes.

Additional to this moral question, it’s very probable that Firefox will continue to patch these holes as their quest for greater user privacy continues. Nevertheless, see below for our temporary “solutions”:

  • Use Local Storage
  • Server Side User Identification
    • For Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics this is by far the best way to track users as it relies on information stored on the server to identify users.
    • Adobe documentation on the various methods that you can use to track users
    • Google documentation on how to track users without first party cookies (ie: User ID)
  • Various technical solutions a la Simo Ahava:
    • Set the cookie headers in a server-side script
    • Set cookie headers in an edge cache
    • Shared web service referenced with a CNAME record
    • Reverse proxy to third party service
  • Wait for the giants to respond
    • It may be tough but wait and see how the big players – Google, Adobe and others – respond to this before doing anything drastic. This directly impacts their bottomline and they’re directly incentivized to consider and respond to this change.

Let us know if you have any unanswered questions about the new Firefox update and what it means for digital marketing in the comments below. If you want more on user privacy and security, check out a few of our other posts:



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