Mozilla Launches a New Browser for iPhone That Blocks Ads and Tracking.
Mozilla has released a new web browser for iOS with a focus on privacy. Named “Firefox Focus,” the browser incorporates automatic blocking of trackers that record your activity on the web.
“Trackers” is the generic term given to any script or code on a website which records and reports on your activity. Usually this functionality is bundled into the ads you see, so Firefox Focus also functions as an ad blocker.
Conceptually, blocking trackers is fairly simple. As the web browser receives data from a website, it identifies the trackers and simply refuses to load/execute them. If you are familiar with Privacy Badger, a popular extension for desktop browsers, Firefox Focus provides similar protections on your iPhone or iPad.
Firefox Focus is a very paired down app with, as the name suggests, a laser focus: privacy. This is not a fully loaded browser – it does not even have tab support. If you need a more full-featured browser, Firefox Focus can lend its blocking abilities to the Safari browser, a capability which Apple first made available in iOS 9.
You can customize how much Focus blocks with separate options to toggle blocking ad trackers, analytics, social media trackers, and even some performance-based blocking like web fonts.
“Much of what makes mobile web pages slow is the technology used to track users on the web,” writes Mozilla. Oftentimes ads – and all the tracking functionality that comes with it – can outweigh (in byte-terms) the website itself.
Firefox Focus also includes an HSTS preload list. HSTS (HTTP Strict Transport Security) is a feature that forces HTTPS connections to websites which opt in to support it. This prevents you from ever making an insecure connection to the site.
Sometimes blocking these trackers can break sites. That’s because legitimate functionality may be bundled in with trackers or misidentified. To accommodate those situations, Focus allows you to easily open the current page in the Firefox or Safari app and continue browsing.
Last month, Mozilla added tracking protection as an experimental feature in their desktop version of Firefox.
Firefox Focus is available for free on the App Store now.