All web browsers now have a privacy feature called private browsing that allows you to browse websites without tracking your history locally on your computer. I’ve already written about how to enable private browsing in IE 11 and Microsoft Edge, and in this article, we’ll talk about Firefox.
Please note that Private Browsing works slightly differently in Firefox than in other browsers. Firefox not only does not record the history of the websites you visit, it also provides tracking protection. This will block parts of sites that try to track your browsing history across multiple sites.
Have you ever visited a travel website to explore a vacation and then suddenly saw an advertisement for the same place while browsing other websites? That is, you are tracked as you browse the pages. Firefox will prevent this when you are in private mode.
To enable private browsing in Firefox, click on the hamburger icon in the upper right corner and select New Private Window. You can also just use the keyboard shortcut CTRL + SHIFT + P.
You will be able to tell that you are in private mode thanks to the mask located in the upper right corner of the window.
You will also get a new window that will show you what is saved and what is not when viewed in this mode. As with any private browsing, your activity is not tracked locally in your browser, but your ISP, employer, or even the software installed on your system can track everything you do.
As mentioned earlier, Tracking Protection is also enabled, but you can disable it. By default, it uses the list provided by Disconnect, which is an online security and privacy product. Firefox uses a standard list that blocks generic ad trackers, social media trackers, and analytics trackers.
If you need even more protection, you can turn on a strict protection list that will block all trackers. The only problem with this is that it can break some sites as it blocks a lot of things. You can enable a stricter list by clicking the hamburger icon, then clicking Options and choosing Privacy.
Next to Use Tracking Protection on Private Windows, click the Edit Blacklist button.
Now click on the Disconnectme strong protection list and then click “Save Changes”. So what exactly does it do? Here’s an example of my own website below.
If you open the web console, you can see exactly which resources are blocked. In my case, all ads from Google, Kontera, Google Analytics script and Google+ are blocked. In this mode, your browsing will definitely be faster and more private. Obviously, it hurts sites that make money from ads like mine, but that’s your choice.
If you need to allow the use of trackers on specific sites, you can click the small shield icon in the address bar and then click Disable Security for this Session.
Finally, if you want to always turn on Private Browsing in Firefox, you can do so by going to the same Privacy tab under Options and selecting Never remember history next to Firefox: under the History heading.
Selecting this option is similar to the private browsing mode. The only difference is that you won’t see this purple mask icon in your browser window. Firefox will need to be restarted for the changes to take effect. You can also click “Use custom settings for history” and then select the “Always use private browsing mode” checkbox.
This is exactly the same as choosing “Never remember history,” so I’m not sure why they have this option. I think this is easier for users to understand and therefore feel safer. Private browsing also deletes all cookies when you close Firefox. Other data that is not saved includes form and search bar entries, passwords, download list, and cached web content (temporary Internet files).
Overall, Firefox’s private browsing implementation is really good in terms of privacy and security, and is definitely worth using when you need to keep your browsing history private. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!