Mozilla tweaks “referer headers” in bid to limit website privacy grabs

Developers of the Firefox browser want to better protect user privacy by limiting the amount of data contained in Referer headers.

The "meta referrer," as the new feature is dubbed, is aimed at stemming the ballooning amount of information many sites stuff into Referer headers, Mozilla Security and Privacy Engineer Sid Stamm wrote in a blog post published Wednesday. Referer headers started out as a way for website operators to know what external link users clicked on to arrive the page they are currently viewing. Over time, the information contained in such links has mushroomed and often includes usernames, site preferences, and other data that reveals personal information. Some sites have worked around this privacy invasion by erecting an elaborate set of redirects that strip some of that data out of Referer headers.

"This HTTP header has become quite problematic and not very useful, so we're working to make it better," Stamm wrote.

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