5 Steps to Online Privacy with Firefox
Are all your techie friends jabbering on and on about constant online tracking by tech giants like Facebook and Google, but you have no clue what they are talking about? No one likes tracking, so you end up asking yourself: Am I also being tracked online?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Hell yes.
Companies like Facebook love data, and they have lots of it. The more data they get, the better picture they can paint of you to then target ads based on your interests. Some of these companies go on to sell this information off to 3rd parties as well, or in the case with Facebook, allow for it to be leaked.
Sure, there are fancy ways of protecting yourself, like using a TOR browser, a VPN or simply not using these sites at all. But if you aren’t ready to make that big jump, this article is just for you.
But I am not doing anything wrong, so I’ve got nothing to hide!
Sure, let me just ask you a simple question.
If I were to walk up to you on the street and ask you to let me read all your chat messages on your phone, browse trough your contacts and see all those pictures in your gallery, would you let me?
Or would you tell me to fuck off? If you are a sane human being, the latter would be your choice. So why are you letting Facebook and other companies do it without even blinking an eye, quickly clicking on that ‘I Accept’ button and granting new apps on your phone all sorts of permissions?
Did I manage to make a point? If so, read on!
1. Get Firefox
In order to get away from online trackers, you first must use a browser that wants to help you do just that. If you are using Chrome right now, sorry to tell you, Google loves online tracking. They make most of their profit from ads, and in order to have you click on them, they must know what you like. And since they own your browser, all your browsing activity is easily tracked and stored on Google servers.
On the other hand, Mozilla is the non-profit behind Firefox, and they have a whole manifesto dedicated to making the web a better place. No tracking, good security, control of data and open source software. Firefox used to be considered slower than Chrome, but with the release of Firefox Quantum, you now have the speed you are used to, with the added layer of security from a company you can trust.
2. Enable Tracking Protection and Do-Not-Track
Firefox has built in tracking protection, which is a big plus! But by default, it’s only enabled on private windows. Head over to the preferences (in the burger menu on the far right), and in the Privacy & Security category, turn on tracking protection to ‘Always’.
This will block a lot of known trackers online, BUT may also hide some content on websites you might want to see. What I like to do, is to use this extension to quickly turn tracking protection off from the toolbar if I am missing some content, and re-enable it as quickly afterwards.
You also want to scroll just a bit lower on the same settings page and enable a Do-Not-Track signal. This signal tells websites that you don’t want to be tracked, but it’s up to the sites if they want honor your request or not.
3. Install Ad and Tracking Blockers
Now comes the time to hide those ads and additional trackers that might be lurking out there. There are many ad blockers, but judging by Firefox users, uBlock Origin seems to be the most popular. So grab yourself a copy and start blocking unwanted ads on all sites.
Apart from an ad blocker, you might want to install Privacy Badger, a tracking blocker made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It’s another awesome tool that blocks additional invisible trackers from trying to make a hidden profile on you.
4. Use a Facebook Container
Remember all those ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons you see on almost every page out there? Facebook uses just those to know where you are on the web, and that makes me a bit unnerving. Well, seems that Mozilla feels the same, so much that they developed an extension called Facebook Container.
What it does is essentially create a separate container of all your data (cookies, browser history) where you are logged in Facebook, and another one for all the other websites. If you open up your news feed, messenger or Instagram, they will load in the former container, while Medium/Google and all other sites will load in the latter. This way, Facebook can’t connect your online browsing activity with your account.
5. Use Firefox Focus on Mobile
Firefox is indeed available on mobile, but you can take privacy one step further with Firefox Focus. This lightweight version of Firefox is available for both Android and iOS, and it includes a lot of ad and tracking protection already built in. Apart from that, it will keep your browsing history and cookies only while its running, and when you exit the browser, all this data is also deleted, leaving behind no trace.
Got more tips on how to lower your online footprint and regain control of your data? Share below, since I am really interested to hear your experiences and recommendations!