How to Disable Sponsored Ads in Firefox

Firefox’s recent update to version 60 and it started displaying sponsored ads whenever you open a new tab. Some users may not mind seeing these ads, but others want them gone yesterday. Don’t worry if you don’t get along with technology, as the steps to disable sponsored ads are quick and easy.

Ads in Firefox

Disabling Sponsored Ads in Firefox

To remove all integrated sponsored ads within Firefox simply open a new tab and click on the gear icon at the top-right of your display. Right next to the “Highlights” option will be the “Recommended by Pocket” option followed by the “Show Sponsored Stories” box. Just uncheck the box, and you won’t have to deal with those ads anymore.

Firefox ads
Settings from Pockets (these getting into the New tabs directly).
Firefox-New-Tab-Controls
If you do not wish to see any tiles, select Show blank page.

Via about:config

You can also make these changes in about:config. Search for browser.newtagpage.enhanced (old entry) and browser.newtabpage.enabled to toggle suggested sites and a blank new tab page, respectively. Double-click the respective value to set it to false to get the same result as described above.

Turn Firefox Ads off

Before you go ahead and uninstall Firefox thinking it’s following in Chrome’s footsteps, there’s something you should know. The reasons Mozilla has decided to add sponsored ads is because it thinks you won’t mind because of how the data is collected.

Firefox-New-Tab
New tabs explained. Picture Source: Mozilla

That said it only collects users data to improve the user’s experience, and the data is transmitted to Mozilla’s servers in tactful HTTPS pings or messages whenever you do something on the Activity Stream. Also, the data that is collected will never be enough to be able to identify you. Your private settings, browsing or searches will not be transmitted at any moment.

Firefox-New-Tab-Ads-Infographic
How Mozilla tries to protect New Tabs. Picture Source: Mozilla

Mozilla, in general, has a vision for a new form of advertisement. The foundation believes that it can act as a trusted intermediary between advertisers and end users, thereby increasing transparency and winning user consent. As such, Mozilla takes it upon itself to select trustworthy partners, manage user data, and then pair users with relevant ads from sponsors. In its advertising model, Mozilla is positioning itself as the trusted privacy guard that’s protecting its users from annoying ads. On the one hand, Mozilla hopes to make ads less intrusive and annoying for users, by removing the shotgun approach typically found in online advertising. On the other side, partners pay to place ads, which helps sustain Mozilla’s operations and keeps products like Firefox free.

Which Ads are shown?

The Mozilla foundation has an interest in offering only those ads it believes its users will appreciate. Mozilla hopes you will trust it to guard your privacy and make the right choices, i.e. select trustworthy partners and show you ads you will find helpful. At the same time, the foundation wants you to know that you are in control.

Is this a privacy issue?

According to the FAQ, it’s not.

Neither Mozilla nor Pocket receives a copy of your browser history. The entire process of sorting and filtering which stories you should see happens locally in your copy of Firefox.

However, their own FAQ confirms that they collect information about what ads are displayed to you and how you interact with them. Mozilla officially reacted to such concerns with a Blog post. I’m not sure what to say more about this because I simply don’t like it and I’m not the only one saying that Mozilla should remove the entire Pocket source code.

Alternative Forks

WaterFox is a fork of Firefox without all of such stuff, it’s pre-hardened compiled Browser which introduced first 64-Bit (even long before Mozilla did it). The project goal is to give people more privacy back and I often recommend this Browser to beginners.

It gets regular updates and it does not include much of the ‘candy‘ which you might not like.

Final Words

Thinking about this a bit more, I would be OK with this being opt-in and presented to the user as an option to help support Mozilla but only if you agree to see sponsored content then you are helping fund Firefox development. If a user wants to “donate” their good recommendations that is their business.

In general, the points stands that a business model that makes the user experience worse is a bad model, you want to align profit and improved the user experience. Additionally, the stronger Mozilla can champion user rights, privacy and ad-free content the better they can distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Overall for me, it’s so funny to see that Mozilla does email campaigns due to privacy issues of Facebook while they pushing Pocket and many 3rd party integrations to Firefox from time to time.

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2 thoughts on “How to Disable Sponsored Ads in Firefox

  1. You said “Before you go ahead and uninstall Firefox thinking it’s following in Chrome’s footsteps…” I say, where are the sponsored ads in Chrome? I have NEVER seen any sponsored ads on a default install. Firefox is going down its own road. Just another reason to use Chrome over Firefox. To list all the reasons would take too long. LOL

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    1. You’re right and that’s the reason why Chromium based browser are my number one choice since years.

      However, I often get criticized when I write something about Chrome so I decided (this time) to be more ‘neutral’ (at least I tried). Cause most people still see (no matter which products or service) from Google as critical, even if there providing the full source code.

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