Our modern browsers are much better than their ancestors at protecting us from vulnerabilities and online dangers, but the big ones aren’t always so great when it comes to caring for your privacy. Firefox is one of the better browsers in this regard, with some decent anti-tracking features, but you may still need to get some add-ons to shore up those privacy defenses.
The following add-ons for the Firefox browser can help with that. Here are some of our favorites that will block all the online nonsense you don’t want any part of.
A very simple app that’s recently been growing in popularity, ClearURLs automatically removes tracking elements that are snuck into countless URLs across various websites.
You can quite often spot tracking code in a URL when the URL is overly long and has loads of nonsense in it (like ‘=’ signs, question marks and other stuff). This extensions cuts away all the tracking part of a URL, trimming it down to only what you need to actually browse the site.
With over 250 rules that block tracking, tracking injection, Google rewriting search results to include tracking elements, and many other functions. It’s a must-have for those who prioritise privacy.
While DecentralEyes is a long-standing pillar of Firefox’s privacy community, in recent times there’s been a growing number of people moving over to LocalCDN. It’s a more up-to-date fork of Decentraleyes, which hasn’t seen a lot of updates lately.
So what does LocalCDN do? Simply put, it emulates various content delivery frameworks, intercepting their online traffic and replacing it with local resources stored in the extension. What this means is that sites like Google and Facebook can’t track your browsing habits between sites.
LocalCDN also has support for more assets and CDNs, meaning that its privacy-protecting features reach further than its predecessor.
3. HTTPS Only (Replaces HTTPS Everywhere)
In 2020, Firefox 83 added an HTTPS-only mode that fulfills much the same function as the HTTPS Everywhere extension. Namely, this tries to enable the full HTTPS protocol on sites that even have limited HTTPS support. This way, you can be sure that when you’re entering sensitive information into a site, at no point will your information send unencrypted.
You can activate it by going to “Settings -> Privacy & Security”, then scroll all the way to the bottom and select “Enable HTTPS-Only Mode in all windows.”
If you want to use an add-on instead (each to their own!), you can still install HTTPS Everywhere, which fulfills much the same function as Firefox’s HTTPS-Only Mode.
4. Cookie AutoDelete
Cookies may sound sweet, but they’re one of the sneakiest little privacy suckers on the Internet. They’re not usually nefarious, but privacy-conscious people don’t like them. Cookies are little packets of data that a website sends to and from stores on your PC – this date tracks your activity on the website it pertains to.
It can be handy, such as remembering what items you added to your shopping basket, but “tracking cookies” can also build up a profile of your online habits – which you may not want.
Cookie AutoDelete is an extension that addresses this by giving you complete control over your cookies. By default, it will automatically delete all cookies when you close a given site or tab. You can also whitelist the cookies you do want to keep, helping you run a tight ship when it comes to online tracking.
5. DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials
DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials is a browser extension created by the same people behind DuckDuckGo. It can:
- Automatically block third-party trackers that attach to your browser when you visit a site to track your moves afterward.
- Force sites to use HTTPS connections when available.
- Show you a Privacy Grade for each site you visit.
While none of those are revolutionary features, it’s a mind-numbingly simple solution for everyone who wants the equivalent of a “Privacy: ON” switch in their browser.
That’s why NoScript is one of the extensions worth adding to your browser since it allows you to enable the support for such scripts on or off selectively.
Do note that its use can be somewhat annoying since it’s overzealous. It also blocks stuff you’d like, rendering some of your favorite sites unrecognizable until you whitelist them. Still, that’s a small price to pay for your privacy, and the problem will almost disappear the more you use it.
7. uBlock Origin
Lighter on resources and more efficient than many alternatives, uBlock Origin can help you eliminate all the unwanted fluff from the webpages you visit.
As its description states, it’s not an “ad blocker” but “a wide-spectrum content blocker.” This means that apart from making ads and tracking code disappear, it also allows you to selectively remove page elements or other content you don’t like.
8. Privacy Badger
Another great anti-tracking extension, Privacy Badger works differently compared to most of its contemporaries. Instead of relying on predefined lists of “good” and “bad” sites, it’s trying to discover trackers based on their behavior.
Privacy Badger is easy to use. When a site doesn’t display as it should, you start turning on the stuff it blocked, one by one.
When you find what you need for the site to display correctly, you turnbut everything else off again.
We should preface this by saying that development seems to have stopped on this extension, which inspired the developer of LocalCDN to step up and create a more updated version of it. If Decentraleyes development continues to stagnate, we’ll remove it from the list, and at this point recommend using LocalCDN instead.
Theoretically, you can block that type of content, too, but the sites that rely on it would look broken. Since there is no way to solve this problem, DecentralEyes found a way to sidestep it: clone the needed content.
By providing local copies of the content, your browser doesn’t need to seek it elsewhere, so it won’t ping the Googles, Microsofts, and Baidu’s of our world whenever you visit something like a web app that relies on jQuery.
Firefox Privacy Settings
Apart from using third-party extensions, you should also take a look into Firefox’s own security options to protect your online privacy. Click the hamburger button on the top right of the browser, choose Preferences, and pay a visit to the following:
Choose Home from the menu on the left, then disable anything Pocket-related, as well as Snippets. This way, Firefox won’t try to force-feed you their content.
In the Search category of options, disable all Search Suggestions to avoid sending everything you type in the address bar to the browser’s active search engine.
Privacy & Security
Move to the Privacy & Security group and set your Tracking Protection to “Strict.” By choosing Custom instead, you have more control of what your browser will block, but we won’t get into more details about it since that’s a whole tutorial on its own.
Set the “Do Not Track” option to Always, and further down at the Address Bar, disable “Search engines” to avoid sending your keystrokes to the active search engine.
If you don’t care about helping Mozilla improve Firefox (by sharing with them how you use it), disable everything under “Firefox Data Collection and Use.”
Ensure everything under Security is enabled, and feel free to check out the rest of the options on this page. Those allow you to check (and clear) stored cookies, grant and revoke permissions to access your location, camera, and microphone, or force the use of HTTPS in all the windows.
It’s a useful feature, and Mozilla hasn’t given us a reason not to trust it. Still, if you’re paranoid about your security, you shouldn’t use Firefox’s built-in Sync feature. Alternatively, you can choose to synchronize your Add-ons and preferences but skip Bookmarks, History, Open Tabs, and Credit Cards.