• ARTICLES
SEARCH

How-To Geek

How to Optimize Mozilla Firefox for Maximum Privacy

Firefox includes powerful features to prevent you from being tracked online, but they aren’t on by default. We’ll show you how to take control of your privacy online with Firefox’s options.

Firefox also has some features that send personal data to Mozilla and Google, but these features aren’t mandatory. Mozilla and Google use the data to improve Firefox, provide you with search suggestions and block malicious web pages.

Do Not Track

Firefox can send a do-not-track request whenever you connect to a website, asking the website not to track you. It’s disabled by default, so you’ll have to enable it yourself.

Click the Firefox menu, select Options and click the Privacy icon.

Click the “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked” check box at the top of the privacy pane to enable the do-not-track feature.

Unfortunately, few websites obey your do-not-track preference at the moment. Do not track is also available in Internet Explorer 9 and Apple Safari, but it’s noticeably absent in Google Chrome.

Search Suggestions

Firefox sends every letter you type into its search box to your default search engine, which sends search suggestions back.

You can easily disable search suggestions by right-clicking the search box and unchecking Show Suggestions.

Safe Browsing

Firefox uses the same phishing and malware detection technology found in Google Chrome. Like Chrome, Firefox automatically downloads an updated list of malicious websites from Google every 30 minutes. If you try to access one of these websites, Firefox sends contacts Google to confirm the website is malicious.

It shouldn’t be possible for Google to determine the exact website you tried to access, but Google cookies you have on your computer may also be sent. Phishing and malware detection helps protect your personal data and your computer’s security, but you can disable it using the options on the security pane.

Cookies

Click the “Firefox will” box on the privacy pane and select “Use Custom Settings for History” to view Firefox’s cookie options.

Many advertising networks track you across multiple websites with third-party cookies. You can disable these cookies by unchecking the Accept third-party cookies box. This may cause problems with some websites, so you may have to re-enable this check box.

First-party cookies can be used for tracking, too. Many websites won’t work if you disable cookies entirely, but you can have Firefox automatically clear them each time you close your browser. This prevents websites from building up a profile of you over time, but you’ll have to log into any open websites each time you reopen Firefox. Just enable the “Clear history when Firefox closes” check box and click the Settings button.

Select Cookies and any other type of data you want Firefox to automatically delete, and then click OK.

Crash Reports and Performance Data

Firefox can send crash and performance reports to Mozilla. Mozilla uses these reports to fix problems and help improve Firefox.

The Submit crash reports check box on the advanced pane controls the crash reports feature. Firefox never sends crash reports automatically; it always prompts you. You’ll still see the prompt if you uncheck this check box, but the crash report dialog will default to not sharing any data with Mozilla.

The Submit performance data option causes Firefox to send anonymous performance reports in the background. The reports contain information about how you use Firefox’s interface, how well Firefox is performing and what hardware your computer contains.

Remember to save your settings by clicking OK.


Wondering about Firefox Sync? Firefox automatically encrypts all your data before syncing it if you have the sync feature enabled, so sync isn’t much of a privacy concern.

We’ve also covered Chrome’s privacy options in the past.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/10/12

Comments (31)

  1. Harvey Hawley

    “Firefox can send a do-not-track request whenever you connect to a website”

    Stupidest thing to set if you want to remain private. “They” use it as a flag that you are worth watching.

  2. Chris Hoffman

    Maybe. Most sites will just ignore it.

    I bet some of the bad guys will include it as part of the profile they build about you, though. Advertisers can track the people that do not wish to be tracked and target ads specifically to them. No laws stopping that, yet.

  3. qwer

    also you can use NoScript addon, it’s very useful

  4. Matti

    ghostery is also a fine addon if you don’t want to be tracked.

  5. Chris

    Good article. It lists the basics that everyone should use. I have also written a similar article to this that includes some good about:config tweaks you can take to ensure ultimate privacy. Some examples include turning off geo-location and the dom-storage. Feel free to have a look at it here: http://infosecurity.wonderhowto.com/blog/secure-your-firefox-browser-0132322/

  6. chrisyzfr6

    I agree with Matti… Ghostery is great!

  7. Chris Hoffman

    NoScript and Ghostery are great add-ons if you’re looking to go further!

  8. quack

    Stupidest thing would be for “Them” to only track computers that send a do-not-track request.

  9. Cam2644

    Good to have articles about Firefox.Could we have more please.Despite all the Chrome publicity,Firefox is still the the the number one browser for so many of us.

  10. Simon

    1. Go to http://weblog.pigfoot.org/pigfoot/2011/08/19/firefox-5-0-release-optimized-build/
    order to download firefox v 5. I was testing another version they doesnt work well like this version.
    Why pigfoot firefox? Because there are settings that recognize your proccessor ( P1 – for pentium III
    P – 2 – for pentium IV P3 – for DUAL CORE and quad and others types I – 3 I – 5 I -7 )
    2. adblock plus gogle it – it very useful plugin for firefox
    3 go to firefox site and order to download plugin – Google Disconnect 1.1.0, who doesnt allow to google shit to gathering your personal info – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/gdc/

  11. Ken Slobodian

    Don’t have Do Not Track check box under privacy icon on my firefox. Do I have the wrong version?

  12. Kit

    Firefox is too dangerous. The IE option to prompt for saving/block cookies is absent in Firefox, as far as I can tell. Firefox has a demented all-or-nothing approach. if I allow all, I get infected by the bad sites. If I block all, I can’t get into the desired sites. What were they thinking??? This is useless. No one should ever use firefox until they fix this limitation.

  13. phil

    @kit – true, you don’t have the pop up option every time in firefox, and I do wish it was there, but if set it to clear when you close the browser, it becomes very hard to actually track (you get a completely knew cookie next time), and you can get into all the desired sites.
    With the custom options you can also set exceptions – both to block always, retain when firefox closes, or keep only for the session. .
    I like this set up better than only the option to keep or block. sometimes I need cookies to get to my websites, but I don’t really want any information stored, so ‘keep until firefox closes’ is ideal. The only drawback I see is always having to manually add sites to the exception list – which is a very rare as there are only a few.

  14. Chris Hoffman

    @Ken Slobodian

    I believe Do Not Track was introduced in version 4. It sounds like you’re quite out-of-date if you don’t have the option! Try downloading a new one from Firefox.com.

  15. Harvey Hawley

    “The IE option to prompt for saving/block cookies is absent in Firefox, as far as I can tell. ”

    It’s not absent, >Use Custom Settings For History > Keep cookies from sites > select Ask me every time from the drop down menu.

  16. Simon

    I’ll sugest to everyone to open more than 100 page in firefox and then close them by key ctrl +w – you’ll see the only and one verse of firefox working properly with that without stucking – pigfoot firefox v5 P3.

  17. Anonymous

    Nothing about adblock?

    lol.

  18. Chris Hoffman

    @Anonymous

    I tried to stick to Firefox’s settings alone. I could easily do a list of extensions including Adblock, Ghostery, NoScript and so one. Perhaps that’ll be another post!

  19. Anonymous

    @Chris Hoffman
    Alright. I’m not saying it’s some conspiracy or something, but a great number of blogging platforms, organizations, and companies seem to ignore Adblock’s presence on the firefox platform. It seems that a great many advertisers believe that they’ve “lost money” because of Adblock, and pretend that not talking about it will make it go away.

    It’s sort of funny that if someone was to google the phrase “How to block ads”, “how to stop ads”, “make internet ads go away”, and several other phrases, throngs of people will advise them to switch to firefox and install adblock.

    IMO, the fact that firefox’s adblock actually halts the scripts from executing and stops the images from downloading is the only reason I use firefox today over Chrome.

    What people need to realize is that the “Drive-By Download” phenomenon comes entirely from advertisements. Best way to protect your PC is to not accept those ads, and not allow companies to track your behavior from site to site by configuring your browser to not accept those requests. Adblock does this for you in four clicks or less.

  20. Rod

    Does anyone know how to remove all instances of google search from Firefox? I got the sidebar taken care of but sometimes I will mistype a URL and it will instantly go to a google search.

  21. Anonymous

    @Rod
    From DuckDuckGo support,

    Type about:config into the address bar.
    Search for “keyword.url”
    Change it to https://duckduckgo.com/?q=
    If you want “instant search”, change it instead to https://duckduckgo.com/?q=!+

    To update the search engine used when you select text and right click:

    Type about:config into the address bar.
    Search for browser.search.defaultenginename.
    Change it to the name of the plugin you used, e.g. DuckDuckGo (SSL)

  22. Simon

    1. Go to http://weblog.pigfoot.org/pigfoot/2011/08/19/firefox-5-0-release-optimized-build/
    order to download firefox v 5. I was testing another version they doesnt work well like this version.
    Why pigfoot firefox? Because there are settings that recognize your proccessor ( P1 – for pentium III
    P – 2 – for pentium IV P3 – for DUAL CORE and quad and others types I – 3 I – 5 I -7 )
    2. adblock plus gogle it – it very useful plugin for firefox
    3 go to firefox site and order to download plugin – Google Disconnect 1.1.0, who doesnt allow to google to gathering your personal info – https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/gdc/

  23. Jim

    I have Version 5 Firefox and mine doesn’t have a Do Not Track button. Mine is customized and my have not become a option!!?? How do I get that option back??

    Oh mine is 3.6.25 version – I’m not sure what the ver 5 is I copy and pasted this!
    Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv:1.9.2.25) Gecko/20111212 Firefox/3.6.25 ( .NET CLR 3.5.30729; .NET4.0C)

  24. 0

    i unchecked submit crash report but after restarting the box is still checked to submit crash reports and or whatever else it submits whether hacked or not
    also i noticed that flash resets itself to alows sites to save info for everything after restarting and somtimes after addon update and even without restarting after visiting youtube it gets reset to allow all in flash player .duck d duck ucks try ixquick

  25. 0

    I think its the 3rd worst browser for privacy and security

  26. 0

    ive been submitting feedback about these issues for over 3 months now

  27. Anonymous

    One of the things I like about Firefox is, you don’t need any account to install and use all the add-ons unlike Google Chrome where a Google account is necessary.

  28. ooo

    sombody deleted my comment when i uncheck submit crash report it resets itself to submit crash report its a backdoor to get hacked

  29. ooo

    i deleted google as a default search engine but when i mispell a word it takes me to google search results

  30. ooo

    after every upgrade somthig new is wrong with it

  31. o

    they removed my cvomment twice
    after i unchecked submit crash report and reopened it it reset itself to submit crash report.it creates a back door and i rather do it manually

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!