Can People Ever Use Facebook Again Without Fear?

New browser extension from Mozilla fences off the social media giant and makes users' web travels far harder to track

The company behind the Firefox web browser, Mozilla, is going head-to-head with embattled social media behemoth Facebook.

First, the company pulled advertising from the platform following revelations of the Cambridge Analytica debacle, Engadget reported. A bold move.

But it didn’t stop there.

The free software community that started as Netscape at the dawn of the internet back in the late ’90s (a lifetime ago!) then proceeded to double down.

In a second Facebook-targeted strike, it leveraged its unique position to offer users a means — albeit modest — to pull dollars away from Facebook, too.

Most Facebook aficionados know that they aren’t just users of the platform — they’re also commodities. The data from Facebook users are advertisers’ golden fleece, and they shell out big bucks to access it.

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What Mozilla has done with its new Facebook Container extension is limit Facebook’s free access to users’ juicy, valuable data. In other words, users get to keep more of what’s theirs — information on what websites they visit, for example — and Facebook, in turn, has less data to offer to companies that are foaming at the mouth to get it.

In a blog post yesterday, Mozilla laid out the basics on how the extension works and why it’s a great answer for folks who are irritated with Facebook’s antics — but aren’t yet ready to bail out completely.

The extension, essentially, segregates Facebook from other tabs people may have open in their browser.

Why is that important?  Let’s say you have Facebook open in one tab, and also have a tab open at a shopping site, where you’re scoping out a present for someone to surprise him or her for a birthday or anniversary. Without the extension, that surprise gift for your beloved could be spoiled.

Facebook’s advertisers regularly target ads based on the sites you’ve visited. So even if you’ve closed the shopping tab, when that certain someone sits down at the computer, he or she may see an ad for that present running all through Facebook’s timeline. It doesn’t take much to put two and two together.

Facebook made some tweaks to its privacy settings to allow users to more easily control who accesses their data and how.

That is a very simple example, of course, but it illustrates the point. Unless you take some measures to prevent this from happening, your web surfing habits can be co-opted by Facebook and sold to the highest bidder.

Today (on March 28, 2018), it’s important to note that Facebook made some tweaks to its privacy settings to allow users to more easily control who accesses their data and how. That’s a step in the right direction; but for many folks spooked over the Cambridge Analytica situation and more, it’s just not enough — or it may be too little, too late.

Think of Mozilla’s Facebook Container extension for its Firefox browser as a digital fence — which is the icon the company uses to represent the app, by the way. It keeps your Facebook activity separate from your other browser-based activities.

And as they say, good fences make good neighbors.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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