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Firefox prepares additional 'Do Not Track' options

The newest Firefox betas deliver nuance to the "Do Not Track" setting, a browser optimization option, better HTML5 support, and custom fonts on Android.

More Do Not Track options are coming to Firefox. But will they have any impact? Mozilla

Firefox has readied a more nuanced approach to how it implements the controversial "Do Not Track" setting and the Android version of the browser has a new font face in the browser's latest betas.

Firefox 21 Beta (download for Windows, Mac, and Linux) introduces more user choice for the Do Not Track header. The header, first introduced two years ago in Firefox 4, sends a signal to Web sites to not track where people who have activated it go as they bop around the Web.

Up until now, implementations of it have been limited to "On" or "Off." Sid Stamm, the lead privacy engineer at Firefox, described the original option as "user says nothing" and "user says don't track."

But, notes Tom Lowenthal, another security engineer at Firefox, there are actually three states of Do Not Track. He explained it like this:

  • DNT:0 means, "I consent to being tracked."
  • DNT:1 means, "I object to being tracked."
  • If the signal is not sent, we are not communicating either of these things.
  • Firefox 21 gives you those three choices. "When DNT is off, it doesn't mean 'please track me.' It means that the user hasn't told the browser their choice yet," Lowenthal wrote. When you install Firefox for the first time, he said, the browser is set to neither so that the choice is entirely the user's.

    What's not clear is how sites react to that. Do Web sites that receive no Do Not Track preference actually not track you? It may be that Mozilla is attempting to create that response, but Web sites have been issuing cookies to follow you around since long before the concept of Do Not Track even existed. That's not to say that a more user-respectful approach to DNT isn't a good idea, but it's hardly how the Web currently works.

    You can toggle your DNT preferences under Options and then the Privacy tab.

    More important is Mozilla's recent announcement that upcoming versions of Firefox will block third-party tracking cookies by default. That feature is due in the Firefox 22 Aurora build, expected tomorrow, and should be in the Firefox stable around July.

    Another big change in Firefox 21 will be the basic implementation of the "Firefox Health Report," a feature that will tell you how to better optimize your Firefox customizations. Smaller changes include support for HTML5's tag, and an option to restore a deleted thumbnail from the New Tab page.

    Firefox 21 Beta for Android (download) changes the standard font for the browser from the Android default to Charis and Open Sans, which are open-source fonts. Mozilla says that they will provide a better reading experience. You'll also be able to save media files with a long-press.

    Full release notes for Firefox 21 Beta are here for desktops, and here for Android.