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How To Use Firefox Privacy Settings to Make Your Browsing Secure | All About Cookies

Have you ever felt like you‘re being watched while browsing the internet? Online tracking is rampant, with advertisers, social networks, and other third parties recording your every click to build detailed profiles about you. The good news is Firefox gives you control to escape this surveillance and browse the web freely and privately. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll show you how to lock down Firefox‘s privacy settings for anonymous and secure web surfing.

We‘ll cover all the essential settings to change, advanced tweaks, must-have privacy add-ons, and even alternative secure browsers worth considering. Follow these tips and you can shed the prying eyes tracking your digital footprint, greatly enhancing your privacy and anonymity online.

Why Firefox Privacy Matters

Before we dive in, it‘s important to understand why hardening your browser‘s privacy protections is so critical in today‘s web.

Every time you browse online, dozens of trackers embedded on websites and ads are recording data about you. According to privacy company Disconnect, the average website has over 20 different tracker tools harvesting your info. As you move from site to site, these trackers build up detailed personal profiles about your interests, purchases, location, and more – often without your consent.

Worse still, browser fingerprints composed of your device settings, installed fonts, and other system information act like a persistent tracking ID broadcasting your identity. A study by the Electronic Frontier Foundation found browser fingerprints to be highly unique, allowing you to be tracked for months at a time without any way to reset them.

The result is a loss of privacy and anonymity as you browse the web, with companies able to monitor your activities across huge swaths of the internet.

Fortunately Firefox gives users control to fight back against invasive tracking and reclaim privacy. By making a few simple tweaks, you can browse the web freely without feeling like hidden eyes are watching your every move online. Now let‘s get started hardening your Firefox privacy.

5 Essential Firefox Privacy Settings to Change

Out of the box, Firefox provides decent security with tracking protection enabled by default in Private Browsing mode and options like Do Not Track available. However, Firefox‘s default settings are geared more towards convenience versus complete privacy.

By adjusting a few key options, you can greatly enhance your anonymity and take back control of your web browsing data.

Use a Private Search Engine

One of the easiest ways to boost privacy is switching your default search engine from Google to a more private option like DuckDuckGo.

Google logs your IP address and customizes search results using your personal data profile. In contrast, DuckDuckGo does not store IP addresses or personal information, meaning your searches are completely anonymous.

To set DuckDuckGo as the default in Firefox:

  1. Click the menu button > Settings
  2. Go to Search > Default Search Engine
  3. Select DuckDuckGo from the dropdown menu

Now your search terms will not be logged or tracked back to you. Think of this like browsing with a mask on versus showing your face openly.

Enable Strict Tracking Protection

Firefox‘s Enhanced Tracking Protection blocks cookies, fingerprints, cryptominers, and other privacy-invasive tools by default. However, it‘s only set to block certain tracking in regular browsing mode.

For full protection, you can place it in Strict mode:

  1. Click the shield icon in the address bar
  2. Select "Protection Settings" in the dropdown
  3. Toggle on the "Strict" option

This will break some sites that rely on tracking but provides maximum privacy. You can always disable it temporarily on specific sites as needed by clicking "Disable Protection" in the shield menu.

Think of enabling Strict mode like having a bodyguard following you versus walking around alone without protection from trackers.

Turn on "Do Not Track"

Another useful privacy signal supported by Firefox is Do Not Track. This requests websites and networks not track your browsing data, similar to a "No Soliciting" sign on your front door.

To enable it:

  1. Click the menu button > Settings
  2. Go to Privacy & Security
  3. Toggle on "Send websites a ‘Do Not Track‘ signal…"

While many companies still ignore this request, enabling Do Not Track sets the expectation that you do not consent to having your web activity logged and monetized. It‘s an important step towards fighting back against the normalization of unchecked surveillance on the web.

Disable Telemetry Data Collection

By default, Firefox collects technical data about your browsing habits and system information and sends it back to Mozilla servers. While anonymized, this telemetry data still carries privacy risks.

To disable it:

  1. Click the menu button > Settings
  2. Go to Privacy & Security
  3. Uncheck "Allow Firefox to send technical data to Mozilla"

Mozilla claims they need this telemetry data to improve performance. However, there are plenty of ways to report bugs and crashes without passively transmitting so much personal usage data. Opting out helps keep your web browsing habits private.

Clear Cookies and Cache

A simple but important habit is regularly clearing out the cookies and cache stored by Firefox from the sites you visit.

Cookies contain login info and other data that allows companies to track you directly and build an ad profile for you. Cache contains temporary copies of website files stored on your system.

Clearing them resets your digital trail, removing history that could identify you:

  1. Click the menu button > Settings
  2. Go to Privacy & Security > Cookies and Site Data
  3. Click "Clear Data"
  4. Select what to clear and click "Clear Now"

Of course, this also signs you out of websites. But periodically clearing them helps protect privacy. You can think of it like wiping your fingerprints off a glass after using it.

Advanced Privacy Settings for Experienced Users

The settings above provide strong baseline privacy for most Firefox users. However, there are more advanced configurations that specialists can use to harden Firefox even further.

Warning: These can break site functionality and are meant for experienced users only. You access them by typing about:config in the address bar.

Here are a few to consider:

  • privacy.resistFingerprinting – Block browser fingerprinting
  • geo.enabled – Disable geolocation access
  • media.peerconnection.enabled – Stop WebRTC from leaking real IP address
  • network.cookie.cookieBehavior – Block third-party tracking cookies
  • media.navigator.enabled – Prevent camera/mic access
  • dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled – Stop clipboard snooping

Tweak these with caution, as they can cause issues on sites relying on certain functionality. But in the right hands, these can transform Firefox into a privacy fortress.

Must-Have Privacy Add-ons

One advantage Firefox has over Chrome is an open ecosystem, allowing extensive customization via browser extensions. There are a number of great privacy-focused add-ons that perfectly complement Firefox‘s built-in protections.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN like Surfshark or NordVPN is a must for any privacy-minded Firefox user.

VPNs route your traffic through an encrypted tunnel to hide your IP address and bypass geographic restrictions. When active, a VPN makes it much harder for websites or spying agencies to monitor your web activity or identify you based on your location.

A VPN is like a private, secure tunnel you can activate whenever you want an extra layer of protection. Top options like ProtonVPN even offer high-security onion routing for maximum anonymization.

Ad Blockers

Ad blockers like uBlock Origin do more than just hide annoying ads. They prevent companies from monitoring the websites you visit using embedded trackers in advertisements.

Tools like Ghostery take this a step further by actively identifying and blocking a wide range of user-tracking tools. This reduces data leakage that could be used to profile you.

So ad blockers both improve page load speeds and boost privacy. It‘s a no brainer for any security-conscious Firefox user.

Password Managers

Storing your passwords in a secure vault is table stakes for anyone serious about privacy. Options like 1Password and Bitwarden make this easy by encrypting your credentials and auto-filling them as needed.

This saves you from using duplicate passwords or relying on insecure methods like writing them down or re-using the same ones across sites.

Password managers not only reduce hacking risks but also prevent companies from using credentials to connect your identity across websites. They are a vital privacy protection.

More Private Alternative Browsers

Firefox provides excellent customization options for privacy seekers. However, other browsers come configured for anonymity out of the box. For maximum security, consider switching to these Firefox alternatives:

Tor Browser

Developed by the Tor Project for anonymous communication, Tor Browser routes traffic through a worldwide volunteer overlay network to conceal your identity and location. It encrypts traffic, blocks tracking tools, and hides your IP address.

Downsides are very slow page load speeds. But for threat models requiring true anonymity, Tor Browser is hard to beat.

Epic Privacy Browser

Epic Privacy Browser takes an interesting approach – it functions similarly to a VPN by routing your traffic through an encrypted proxy. This hides your IP without needing a separate VPN client.

Epic also utilizes persistent private browsing mode, disabling history, cookies, and cache by default. Performance is faster than Tor, making it more suitable for daily use, and advanced power users can configure custom encryption settings.

Brave Browser

Brave prioritizes both speed and privacy. It blocks ads and tracking scripts by default and loads pages noticeably quicker than Chrome or Firefox. You can opt into Brave Ads to see privacy-preserving advertisements as well.

Strong default protections plus the option of a built-in VPN make Brave an all-around solid choice for those seeking a secure daily driver browser.

Firefox Privacy FAQs

Is Firefox safe for privacy out of the box?

Firefox offers decent default privacy but lags behind hardened options like Tor and Brave. The tweaks in this guide significantly boost Firefox‘s privacy protections.

What are the simplest ways to make Firefox more private?

Great first steps are using a private search engine, enabling Strict Tracking Protection, clearing cookies/cache, disabling telemetry, and turning on Do Not Track.

How do I clear my Firefox browsing history?

  1. Click the menu button > Settings > Privacy & Security
  2. Go to History > Clear History
  3. Select your desired time range, choose what to delete, and click "Clear Now."

How do I stop Firefox from leaking my IP address?

Use a trusted VPN addon or service to hide your IP address from sites you visit. Also enable media.peerconnection.enabled in about:config to prevent WebRTC IP leaks.

Does Firefox offer built-in VPN?

No, Firefox does not include a VPN service. You‘ll need to install a third-party VPN addon or app for IP address anonymity and encrypted traffic tunneling.

Take Control of Your Privacy with Hardened Firefox Settings

Online privacy matters now more than ever before. But thankfully Firefox provides powerful tools to escape corporate and government surveillance. By following this guide and hardening your browser settings, installing privacy extensions, and being mindful of your digital trail, you can browse the web freely without feeling like unseen eyes are tracking your every move.

While no solution is 100% bulletproof, a privacy-optimized Firefox configuration offers robust protection for daily web use. Coupled with precautions like using a secure browser on a trusted device, regularly clearing history, avoiding logging into accounts, and not oversharing online, you can dramatically minimize your digital footprint.

It may seem daunting at first but becomes second nature over time. And having private, anonymous access to the internet is more than worth the small amount of effort. Take control of your web browsing today!


Streamr Go

StreamrGo is always about privacy, specifically protecting your privacy online by increasing security and better standard privacy practices.