Firefox and the Illusion of Privacy
Some nominal observations about the Mozilla folks claiming to be advocates for privacy.
Search engine owners pay to have Firefox use their search engine. Search engine owners make money through advertising, which is dependent upon tracking users and mining data. Pretty much a conflict of interest right there.
Cookies are enabled by default. In
Preferences->Privacy, the ability to configure a cookies white list is hidden by default. Users must know to enable the
Use custom settings for history option.
After enabling the Cookies option users will notice that accepting all cookies is enabled by default and accepting third party cookies is enabled. Third party cookies are used solely for tracking and data mining.
Upcoming Firefox releases might require an add-on to manage individual cookies.
Tiles (speed dial) expose browsing history.
Pocket sponsored recommendations.
The following hidden preferences are enabled by default:
beacon.enabled browser.safebrowsing.enabled browser.safebrowsing.downloads.enabled browser.safebrowsing.malware.enabled browser.pocket.enabled browser.send_pings camera.control.autofocus_moving_callback.enabled camera.control.face_detection.enabled clipboard.autocopy device.sensors.enabled dom.event.clipboardevents.enabled dom.webnotifications.enabled experiments.enabled extensions.pocket.enabled geo.enabled media.navigator.enabled media.peerconnection.enabled narrate.enabled network.http.sendRefererHeader network.http.sendSecureXSiteReferrer network.predictor.enabled network.prefetch-next social.enabled webgl.disabled=false
This short list does not touch upon intrusions to privacy with built-in system add-ons. System add-ons cannot be removed.
The observations do not imply these features might be useful for some people, but that they violate privacy when users are not fully informed. All of these hidden features should have GUI controls in the Preferences Privacy section. There are no GUI controls without a respective add-on.
Preferences->Privacy section, there should be a way to remove or disable all of these options. Something like a
Strict Privacy section. Developers could add another belittling confirmation dialog if they wanted. No, this option is not a Private Browsing Window. This option would remove or disable all of the above options.
Yeah, I know the standard replies. “Enabling these features is necessary to provide a rich web browser experience.” Or, “Disabling some of these features breaks certain web sites and services.”