Just like all butterflies were once cocoons, all Firefox users were once Internet Explorer users. They switched from Internet Explorer to Mozilla Firefox to seek better security and privacy online. If you are a Firefox user then you already have a secure browser. Firefox, like other browsers, also provides a private browsing mode which you can toggle on and off using the hotkey Ctrl + Shift + P. Your online activity while inside the private browsing mode is not stored on your computer. There would be no history, cookies, recently viewed sites etc. if you use the private browsing mode. But, if you want to boost Firefox privacy all the time, without having to switch to this privacy mode now and again, then you can tinker with some of the settings in Firefox. This articles explains ten different ways to make your Firefox even more private for your use. The methods explained in this article would surely give you better privacy in your Firefox but I have not mentioned any security related settings.
1. Disable Saving Passwords
By default, Firefox stores all the usernames and passwords that you use for logging on to various sites like facebook or Gmail. Next time you visit that site, Firefox would automatically fill up your login credentials. This means just anyone who uses your computer can easily access your accounts for different online services. To prevent this, you should disable saving passwords in Firefox. To do so – open the Options window for Firefox, select the Security tab and uncheck the Remember passwords for sites checkbox. Then click OK to save the settings.
2. Disable Tracking
Some sites track users browsing behavior so that they can better target those users and display related advertisements. Suppose you visit sports websites, then these tracking sites would start showing you sports related advertisements on other sites. This is considered as invasion of privacy by some users. Firefox has an option to disable such tracking. If you enable this option, Firefox would request all sites not to track you. To enable this option, select the Privacy tab in the Options window of Firefox. Then select Tell websites I do not want to be tracked and click the OK button to save the changes.
3. Disable Search and Form History
Firefox has a small search bar on its top-right corner using which you can quickly search for a term or keyword in a selected search engine or search service provider like Google, Yahoo! or Wikipedia. But if you search for something in this search bar, your search term is stored in Firefox. Anybody can look at the stored entries and find out what you have been searching for. You can disable search and form history from the Options window of Firefox. Select Privacy tab, choose Use custom settings for history for history settings. Then uncheck Remember search and form history and save the settings.
4. Disable New Tab Page
Starting from Firefox 13, a new feature is included in Mozilla Firefox called new tab page. It shows a grid preview of nine of the most opened sites whenever you open a new tab or start your browser. This can reveal what sites you spend most time on to anyone who starts your Firefox browser. You should disable this new tab page to prevent this. To disable it, type about:config in the location bar of Firefox, look for an entry browser.newtabpage.enabled and change its value to false by double-clicking on it.
5. Use HTTPS Everywhere
When you connect to a website over the HTTP protocol, the data transferred is not encrypted and anyone can tap on your data. A dedicated hacker can look what you have been doing over the internet. So it is suggested that you use HTTPS on as many sites as possible. The secure HTTPS protocol encrypts everything between your computer and a website, so nobody can snoop around. You can force Firefox to use HTTPS on most of the sites that support it using a free Firefox extension HTTPS Everywhere.
6. Selectively Block History for Some Sites
If you do not want the browsing history of some sites to appear in your Firefox history, download history or recently closed tabs list, then you can simply use the History Block extension for Firefox. It works like the Private Browsing Mode for Firefox for some specified sites without the hassle of switching back and forth to normal and private modes.
7. Clear Browsing History on Firefox Exit
If you are concerned about someone looking at your browsing history behind your back, then you can set Firefox to automatically clear browsing history when Firefox closes. To set this option, open the Options window and select the Privacy tab. Choose Use custom settings for history for history settings and select check Clear history when Firefox closes and save the settings.
8. Block Local Shared Cookies
Local shared cookies (or LSO in short) are Flash cookies that is data stored on a user’s computer by the Adobe Flash plugin as you browse through different sites that make use of the Adobe Flash plugin. Many sites use LSO cookies to collect information about a user’s browsing behavior for market research. You can manage, block and remove such LSO cookies from your Firefox browser using the BetterPrivacy extension. It can help you to automatically delete such cookies at browser start or exit or after some specific time.
9. Disable Frequent Sites in Jumplist
When you right-click on Firefox’s icon in the Windows 7 taskbar, it shows the jumplist containing sites that you visit most frequently in Firefox. This makes it very easy for just anyone to find out what sites you have been spending your time on. To disable it, type about:config in the location bar of Firefox, look for an entry browser.taskbar.lists.frequent.enabled and change its value to false by double-clicking on it.
10. Panic Button
Many times our nosy friends jump up on us trying to find out what we were doing on the computer. If you do not want anybody to know which websites you are browsing in Firefox, then Panic button may help you. It is a Firefox addon that helps you quickly hide all the Firefox windows when your friends, family members or your colleagues approach you. If you see them coming near you, just press the F9 button and all Firefox windows would disappear. When they are gone, you can press F9 again to bring back those Firefox windows.
The above mentioned methods have been tested on the latest version of the Firefox browser running on Windows 7 (32-bit) SP1. Things are a little different in Linux and Mac, for example, you open the options or preferences window in a different manner but rest of the instructions should still work. If you think I have missed some important settings or add-ons that can be used to increase the privacy in Firefox, then please let me know in the comments below.