5 Easy Ways to Adjust Firefox 3.5 for Privacy

The latest version of Firefox was recently released. Featuring improvements, new features and fixes, we looked at 5 ways of securing Firefox 3.5 in Part One.

Now, for Part Two, here’s 5 easy ways to adjust Firefox’s settings to maintain your internet privacy.

Why is internet privacy important?

Internet privacy is a two-sided argument. On one side, companies want to track your behavior to better market to you, making ads and pages more relevant to your interest. When sites remember you, it makes for a more personalized experience and with Firefox 3.5’s Geo-Location features, sites can be custom tailored to your location.

On the other side, it’s pretty creepy to think that companies you know absolutely nothing about, let alone trust, are building databases and remembering everything you’ve done on the internet for the past few years. They may not know your name or address.. Unless you registered with them, but it’s creepy nonetheless.

Even worse, nothing is stopping those databases from being sold to other marketers and business partners which are unrelated to the sites you frequent. Your interests, preferences, how often you visit a site, who you order, what site you came from, how you react to different advertisements, and more. It’s all in these databases.

5 Easy Ways to Adjust Firefox 3.5 for Privacy:

1. Private Browsing:

A feature new to Firefox 3.5 is Private Browsing. When Private Browsing is engaged, it will not remember or save Cookies, Cache files, your Download List, Passwords, any Form or Search Bar entries, and Visited pages.

To turn on Private Browsing:

– Select Tools from the Menu Bar.

– Choose “Start Private Browsing”.

Internet Privacy in Firefox 3.5

This must be done manually, each time you begin using Firefox.

To start Private Browsing automatically whenever you open Firefox:

– Open Firefox’s Preferences and choose the Privacy tab.

– Check the box next to “Automatically start Firefox in a private browsing session”.

Internet Privacy in Firefox 3.5

Private Browsing is great, but if it’s a bit too much for you, and you’d like to manually control Firefox, follow the next tips.

2. Clearing Cookies:

Cookies are little files sent to you from almost every website you visit. They’re basically for allowing site to know who you are. Most are harmless, but some can be used by the ads embedded in a website to track where you go.

Since many ads are on many different sites, but served up by only a few companies, they can use this data to track you as you bounce from site to site.

Unfortunately, denying all cookies will severely impact your web experience. Many sites will refuse to work properly.

How you handle cookies without breaking anything:

– Open Firefox’s Preferences and choose the Privacy tab.

– Check the checkboxes to Accept cookies from sites, and third party cookies.

– Set Firefox to “Keep until I close Firefox”.

Internet Privacy in Firefox 3.5

Now, Firefox will behave normally but whenever you quit, all cookies are dumped. If you start Firefox back up and visit the same site and it won’t know who you are.

Remember, If you’re a fan of sites remembering you without logging in, you will have to make an exception and add the site to this list. Do this by clicking Exceptions in the Privacy tab.

Note: As backwards as it may seem, without accepting third party cookies, many sites won’t work right. This is because larger sites use other domains to store and serve portions of code to you. YouTube.com sends formatting information via ytimg.com for example. Technically, these are third party cookies.

3. Controlling your cache:

The cache is a dated feature mainly for dial-up users because loading sites used to take a long time. What it does is store elements of websites so that they don’t need to be downloaded each time you visit a page, drastically reducing page-load time with dial-up.

Let’s face it, many people use broadband connections and while a cache can be useful, it really doesn’t need to be as large as 100MB.

Privacy conscious individuals know that your entire browsing history can be rebuilt via your cache and depending on how many sites you’ve gone to, a large cache can contain sessions from weeks or months ago.

To control that cache:

– Open Firefox’s Preferences and choose the Advanced tab.

– Click on the Network sub-tab.

– Enter 5 in the box underneath “Offline Storage”.

Internet Privacy in Firefox 3.5

4. Turn off Location Awareness:

Location-Aware browsing is a new feature with Firefox 3.5. Before Location-Awareness, a site would read your IP and grab the location from your ISP. This would result in a vague location such as what state / country you are in. Now, with Location-Aware browsing, information from your ISP, nearby wireless APs and a random identifier from Google, all combine to give a very accurate location (within 200ft) of where you are currently sitting.

To turn Location-Aware Browsing off:

– In the Address Bar, type about:config

Note: Firefox will warn you about voiding a warranty. just ignore it and click the button.

– Type geo.enabled in the filter bar.

– Change the Value to false by double-clicking.

Internet Privacy in Firefox 3.5

5. Location Bar Suggestions:

Firefox will use your bookmarks and history to suggest sites as you type into the address bar. This can be useful, yet it can also compromise privacy especially if you type in something while doing a presentation and an embarrassing URL shows up. Personally, I find this feature to be more annoying than embarrassing and I’m glad Mozilla makes turning it off easy in Firefox 3.5.

To turn off Location Bar Suggestions:

– Open Firefox’s Preferences and choose the Privacy tab.

– Under Location Bar, select “Nothing” from the drop down menu.

Internet Privacy in Firefox 3.5

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