Firefox Privacy Settings Guide

Firefox Privacy Settings Guide

If you're looking to get more privacy and security when browsing online, Mozilla Firefox might be the best option.

If you're looking to get more privacy and security when browsing online, Mozilla Firefox might be the best option.

Mozilla Firefox is well-known for striving to get users enhanced privacy and security, trying to only collect a minimum of data they need to improve users' experience.

With Firefox, you get lots of privacy and security features and the web browser is highly customizable for giving you more online privacy while also providing a great browsing experience.

There are many settings you can tweak and add-ons to install in the Firefox browser to get more online privacy while browsing and we'll get over them in this post.

One important thing to note is that you don't have to go and do them all. Before proceeding, you must think a bit about what your browsing habits are and what are your needs for privacy. Changing some of the settings can cause some websites to crash or not display correctly, so you have to take this into consideration.

Also, it's not a good idea to go and install all the add-ons you can get because it can turn against you. The more add-ons you install to your browser, the slower it will get. Some of them also have features that do the same thing and, if you install more than one that does the same thing, it will cause them to not work properly.

These being said, let's jump to talking about how you can customize Mozilla Firefox for better online privacy.


Enhanced Tracking Protection

Enhanced Tracking Protection is a set of features that block a lot of common trackers and malicious scripts and limits the amount of data third parties collect about your browsing behavior.

Companies collect data about the way you interact with pages through code embedded in web pages. If the same tracker is embedded on multiple websites, it basically follows you around, generating a detailed profile of your browsing behavior. Companies that use tracking share and sell the data they collect to third parties. There are many categories of trackers based on the data they collect: advertising, analytics, cryptomining, fingerprinting, session replay, and social.

Through the Enhanced Tracking Protection feature, Firefox blocks many of the known trackers, using a list provided by Disconnect.

  • To access this feature go to Menu > Options / Preferences > Privacy & Security

You have three options here:

  • Standard
  • Strict
  • Custom

The Standard mode is set up by default, and it blocks social media trackers, cross-site tracking cookies, cryptominers, and tracking content only in private mode. With this mode on, you'll encounter no problem with loading web pages, and it's a great balance between privacy and a sleek experience.

The Strict mode gives you more privacy, blocking content trackers in all windows and fingerprinting trackers. If you enable this mode you should be aware that it might cause some websites to not function properly. But you can deal with that occurrence.

  • Social media trackers - Social media platforms embed trackers on other websites so they can follow around your activity on the web: what you do, see and watch. By default, Firefox blocks common trackers from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn but the blocking is limited so it doesn't cause the websites to crash. The strict mode blocks even more trackers but some websites might not display correctly.
  • Cross-site tracking cookies - These cookies follow you around multiple websites so companies can get a complex profile of your browsing habits. Firefox block these kinds of cookies. Other cookies, such as those that remember what's in your shopping card are still allowed.
  • Cryptominers - They are a type of malware that use your system's computing power to mine digital currency. Firefox blocks cryptominers in both Standard and Strict mode.
  • Tracking content - When websites load external content on their page (e.g. videos, ads, forms, buttons), the code behind the content contains trackers. With the Standard mode, Firefox only blocks tracking content in Private Mode but, with the Strict mode, these trackers are blocked everywhere.
  • Fingerprinters - Fingerprinters collect data about your browser and device so it can create a detailed profile of you to follow you around the web. Examples of the data collected are your OS, device, language, installed fonts, info on your network connection, extensions on your browser. In the Strict mode, fingerprinters are blocked.

You can see what trackers Firefox blocks on any given page by clicking on the shield icon next to the URL.

If it happens for a website to not display correctly due to the Strict mode, you can click on the shield icon and turn the toggle off. It will stop Firefox from blocking trackers but it will allow the page to load properly.


Do Not Track

Websites track your online activity, collecting data about your online behavior and interests so companies can target you with targeted and personalized ads.

Firefox has a Do Not Track feature you can find by going to:

  • Menu > Options / Preferences > Privacy & Security

This feature is turned on by default only in Private Mode, but you can manually turn it on for all pages. By enabling this feature, Firefox will tell all websites that you don't want to be tracked.

The downside of the Do Not Track feature is that websites do not have to comply with this setting, so turning it on doesn't guarantee you won't be tracked anymore.

Because many websites choose to ignore the request, this feature doesn't actually do much for your privacy. It seems that enabling can even have a negative effect on your privacy as it acts as a fingerprinting variable, making you more identifiable.


Firefox Data Collection and Use

By default, Firefox collects data that's used to improve performance and functionality. They can also install and run studies on your device. You can learn more about the data they collect and how they use it from here and here.

You can disable data collection by going to:

  • Menu > Options / Preferences > Privacy & Security > Scroll to the Firefox Data Collection and Use section > Uncheck all the boxes

About:config

Now let's get a bit more technical and advanced. The privacy settings you change from the settings menu are the basic privacy preferences. But there are more configurations you can make to Firefox for improved online privacy by accessing the about:config.

To access these settings: type about:config in the URL bar and hit enter.

You'll be prompted a warning that lets you know changing these settings can interfere with the stability and performance of the browser. Click on "I accept the risk!" to continue. You'll be displayed a list of all advanced preferences arranged in alphabetical order.

To modify a preference, you have to double-click on it. Those that are boolean (see the Value column) will change between true/false. For those who are integer or string, you'll have to type in the value.

Here you'll find a list of the settings that relate to privacy along with advice about the best configuration.

Word of caution before proceeding: Changing these preferences might cause the browser to not act properly, so don't change things randomly. It's best to do thorough research on each setting before acting. Also, you should know that any changed setting can add new variables to your fingerprint.

To better understand what each of the preferences do, you can start your research from here:


Firefox Private Network

Back in September 2019, Mozilla announced the release of a new feature for the Firefox browser which is called Firefox Private Network.

It works by encrypting the traffic and hiding your location from the websites you visit. Many refer to it as the Firefox VPN, but it actually works more like a proxy because it only works at the web browser level. Unlike with other proxies, you are not able to choose a specific proxy server location, you are attributed one randomly.

For now, this feature is in beta testing and it's only available to the US desktop users.


Privacy add-ons

There are a couple of great add-ons you can install to the Firefox browser for improved security and privacy.

  • uBlock Origin - uBlock Origin is a free and open-source efficient blocker that blocks intrusive trackers and ads (including annoying Youtube Ads). Besides adding more privacy to your browsing, it can also speed up page loading.
  • HTTPS Everywhere - HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension that forces websites you visit to use an HTTPS connection rather than HTTP.
  • Decentraleyes - Decentraleyes is a browser add-on that blocks tracking by third party content delivery platforms. Examples of such platforms are Google Hosted Libraries, Cloudfare, Microsoft and Facebook. It complements regular blockers such as uBlock Origin.
  • Privacy Badger - Privacy badger is an add-on that blocks third-party trackers from recording your online activity. It works by keeping track of the websites you go on and, if it notices that an advertising company tracks you across multiple websites, it automatically blocks that advertiser from loading more content in your browser.
  • Cookie AutoDelete - The Cookie AutoDelete extension automatically removes cookies that are not being used, protecting you from tracking. With this extension, you can control all your cookies with a single tool.

There are more privacy add-ons out there with useful features but I haven't included them here because Firefox kinda covers those features through their privacy settings.

If you want to learn more about them, you can look over this post:

The settings we went through in this post related to improving online privacy on the Mozilla Firefox browser will definitely take your online privacy to the next level.

Still, there are a couple of variables that could further be addressed. For example, your IP address and location are still visible to all the websites you visit.

To keep your IP address and location private while browsing online, you must use a reliable VPN service. Doing so will also help strengthen your online security by encrypting all internet traffic.

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