Mozilla this morning launched a Firefox browser add-on for those users not willing to delete their Facebook account, but also wanting some control over how much of their data Facebook can access. The “Facebook Container,” as the new extension is called, isolates your Facebook identity from the rest of the web. That means Facebook will not be able to use your other web activity to send your targeted advertising.
To be clear, this extension wouldn’t have saved users’ data from being compromised as it was in the Cambridge Analytica scandal; and it does nothing to prevent Facebook advertisers from diving into your profile and your activity while on the social network in order to target you with advertisements while browsing Facebook.
However, it is meant to plug at least one of the holes in Facebook’s leaky dam by offering a way for users to prevent Facebook from gaining even more data collected outside its service.
“Containers are a feature built into the Firefox platform that separate user cookies and site data into different cookie jars,” explains Jeff Griffiths, Product Lead for Firefox. “For Facebook Container specifically, this means that a user should only be able to log in in the Facebook Container. Facebook cookies and site data that identify the user are only available to that Container, and only Facebook can be open in that Container,” he says.
When you install the new extension, it deletes your Facebook cookies and logs you out of the social network. The next time you open Facebook, you’ll notice it’s been opened in a blue-colored “container” tab.
From within that tab, you can continue to use Facebook normally. However, if you click a link that would take you to a page off of Facebook, it will load the URL outside the container. Similarly, if you click any Facebook Share buttons outside of Facebook, it will load those in the Facebook container. (But this will send information to Facebook about the website you shared them from, it should be noted.)
In addition, you may not be able to login to third-party apps with your Facebook credentials, and the embedded Facebook comments and Like buttons you see around the web won’t work either.
“This prevents Facebook from associating information about your activity on websites outside of Facebook to your Facebook identity,” explains The Firefox Frontier blog. “So it may look different than what you are used to seeing.”
Actually, it may surprise you to find out how widespread your use of Facebook was when outside the social network.
Facebook’s platform and its off-site advertising network allow other sites and apps to access users’ Facebook data even when users aren’t on Facebook itself. Facebook is hardly alone in terms of companies doing this. But it is making headlines over data mishandling, which means it’s a good time for Mozilla to capitalize on consumers’ concerns to share their messages – and tools – focused on data privacy.
Mozilla said it sped up its work on the Facebook Container add-on, which is based on technology it’s been developing over the past couple of years, as it’s seen increasing consumer demand for tools for managing privacy and security.
There are other tools available to help consumers with these issues today, as well, including the Ghostery anti-tracking extension now owned by Cliqz, ad blockers (including those bundled with browsers like Safari), and more.
However, single-purpose tools like this are useful because they allow people to limit some data-sharing activity, without having to take the drastic step of deleting Facebook.