After pulling Facebook advertising over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Firefox-maker Mozilla has released the Facebook Container extension to make it harder for the ad giant to track Firefox users when they venture out to non-Facebook sites.
The extension is aimed at desktop users who are concerned about the social network’s web tracking but don’t want to or can’t afford to delete their Facebook account.
The new extension appears to be a response to the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, but Mozilla has also outlined a general 2018 drive to make Firefox a better option for web users who are concerned about online privacy. Among these plans include a Chrome-like "ad filter”, pop-up blockers, and a breach alert service.
The extension wouldn’t prevent Facebook users from giving up their data to a personality quiz app of the type at the centre of the Cambridge Analtica mess, but it could appeal to users generally concerned about Facebook collecting data when they visit another website.
“It is important to know that this extension doesn’t prevent Facebook from mishandling the data that it already has, or permitted others to obtain, about you,” Mozilla says.
“Facebook still will have access to everything that you do while you are on facebook.com including your Facebook comments, photo uploads, likes, any data you share with Facebook connected apps, etc.”
According to Mozilla, after installing the extension the container deletes Facebook cookies and logs users out of Facebook in Firefox. From then on Facebook is loaded in a blue colored Firefox tab, which is the container.
After logging in to Facebook within the container tab the extension puts a virtual wall between Facebook and any non-Facebook site the user visits.
However, it doesn’t entirely cut Facebook out of the picture as using its Share buttons on other websites will still share data back to Facebook.
“You can log in and use Facebook normally when in the Facebook Container. If you click on a non-Facebook link or navigate to a non-Facebook website in the URL bar, these pages will load outside of the container,” explains Mozilla.
“Clicking Facebook Share buttons on other browser tabs will load them within the Facebook Container. You should know that using these buttons passes information to Facebook about the website that you shared from.”
The extension also breaks features like Facebook comments and Like buttons on tabs outside the Facebook container. However, for those concerned about Facebook’s extra-territorial web tracking it will prevent the social network from linking activity on third-party websites to a Facebook ID.
The extension also Facebook’s single-sign on service that allows users to sign into with their Facebook credentials. Mozilla says this is intended as the purpose of the extension was to separate data created by using Facebook from data generated by using other websites.
The extension may also provide help Facebook users learn in practice how and when Facebook collects data.