Firefox 59 will prevent data leaks with improved private browsing sessions

Upcoming versions of Firefox will cut down on information shared with websites in private browsing mode.

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Though Firefox 58 just hit browsers in January, Mozilla is already looking ahead to version 59, promising improved private browsing to prevent leaks of sensitive information, according to a recent blog post from Mozilla privacy and security engineer Luke Crouch. The upcoming privacy protections, along with the speedy page loads seen in Firefox 58, could help Firefox become a more serious competitor to Chrome in the enterprise.

Typically, when you are on a website and click a link to navigate to a new site, that new site receives the exact address of the site you just came from—known as "referrer value," Crouch wrote in the post. This not only leaks data to websites, but also to advertisements or social media platforms embedded in the site—a large issue if your business handles sensitive data.

This might not be an issue for all websites, but can have dire consequences: In 2015, the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that personal health care data from healthcare.gov was leaked to DoubleClick in this way.

SEE: Secure Browser Usage Policy (Tech Pro Research)

Firefox 59 seeks to solve this problem by reducing the path information from the referrer values sent to third parties, or in other words, the information websites pass on about visitors. So instead of a website or third party seeing a referer such as "https://www.

healthcare.gov/see-plans/85601/results/?county=04019&age=40&smoker=1&pregnant=1&zip=85601&state=AZ&income=35000," they will only see "https://www.healthcare.gov/," the post noted.

"This change prevents site authors from accidentally leaking user data to third parties when their users choose Private Browsing Mode," Crouch wrote. "We made this change only after first ensuring that this would have minimal to no effect on web usability."

Firefox 58 is already matching Chrome's speed with less memory usage. Now, version 59 could become a more useful browser for privacy-conscious individuals and business users, as it covers their tracks more heavily.

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Image: Firefox