You know how when you copy some links, the URL turns out to be insanely long? You might recognize the first part of the URL as a normal link, but everything that comes after it is just a Byzantine collection of letters, numbers, and symbols. For example:
That string after the question mark is a set of tracking parameters. It feeds information about you to sites so they can keep tabs on user behavior. For example, they might want to know where traffic came from, like if it was through Twitter or a newsletter. It’s a quiet but pervasive way your privacy gets undermined while online, and Firefox now has baked-in protection from it.
With the update to version 102, Firefox now automatically strips tracking parameters from some URLs, including those shared on Facebook. However, as reported by Bleeping Computer, it’s just a handful, and in some light, quick testing, it won’t cover all the sites you might visit during the normal course of a day.
Still, the feature is handy, even if it’s not comprehensive. (It’s a particular boon for people like me, who take the time to manually strip out such tracking info before sharing with links—it’ll save time.) To turn it on, go to Settings > Privacy & Security. Under Enhanced Tracking Protection, choose either Strict or Custom. For Custom, check the box for Tracking Protection. Note that Firefox won’t strip tracking parameters by default when you’re in an Private Browsing window—you’ll have to enable it by typing about:config into your address bar, searching for strip, and then toggling the privacy.query_stripping.enabled.pbmode option to true.
If you don’t see these options available, you’re likely not on version 102 yet. You can verify by click the hamburger icon in the upper right of a Firefox window, then navigating to Help > About Firefox. Opening this window will also trigger a manual check for Firefox updates, which is how I got version 102 for my Firefox install.
Also included in this browser update is the ability to keep the download panel from opening every time a new download starts. For more about Firefox and its best features, you can read up on the reasons to switch to Firefox from Chrome—there’s even one that doesn’t currently exist elsewhere.
Alaina Yee is PCWorld's resident bargain hunter—when she's not covering PC building, computer components, mini-PCs, and more, she's scouring for the best tech deals. Previously her work has appeared in PC Gamer, IGN, Maximum PC, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can find her on Twitter at @morphingball.