Tag Archives: privacy

Ricing Firefox for Usability, Privacy and Distraction Free Browsing

Motivation

Preventing ADHD, computer AIDS and returning browser back to what it was supposed to be – a tool to read and learn, not to consoome content.

Introduction

While Mozilla engages in an open warfare against their users, somehow they still haven’t managed to completely kill their only product that matters. Firefox continues to be the only major (that sweet < 4 % market share) usable browser which is not beholden to Google’s browser engine. In this article I’ll explain how to minimize your web footprint, read what you want to read without distractions, and be quicker and more efficient about it.

This article is written as a series of notes to myself (and others) and follows after a fresh installation of Firefox 72.0.2 (everything should work with later Firefox versions with no or minimum changes).

Changing visual browser options

So the first thing I do after installing Firefox is changing the following settings in about:preferences.

General section

  1. Check Restore previous session.
  2. Make Firefox default browser & uncheck Always check if Firefox is your default browser.
  3. Uncheck Ctrl+Tab cycles through tabs in recently used order.
  4. Check When you open a link in a new tab, switch to it immediately.
  5. Check Always ask you where to save files in Downloads subsection.
  6. Under Digital Rights Management (DRM) Content leave Play DRM-controlled content checked if you can’t stop consoooming netflix.
  7. In the Firefox Updates subsection check Check for updates but let you choose to install them.
  8. Uncheck Use a background service to install updates.
  9. Uncheck Automatically update search engines.
  10. In the Browsing subsection uncheck the following options
    1. Show a touch keyboard when necessary
    2. Search for text when you start typing
    3. Enable picture-in-picture video controls
    4. Recommend extensions as you browse
    5. Recommend features as you browse
  11. Under Network Settings make sure Enable DNS over HTTPS is unchecked.

This is how general settings section looks like after applying these settings (click to open full-sized image in a new tab):

Home section

  1. Under New Windows and Tabs select Homepage and new windows and New tabs to open Blank page.
  2. Uncheck everything in the Firefox Home Content subsection.

This is how home settings section looks like after applying these settings (click to open full-sized image in a new tab):

Search section

  1. Set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine.
  2. Uncheck everything under Search Suggestions.
  3. Remove everything except DuckDuckGo from the list under One-Click Search Engines.

This is how search settings section looks like after applying these settings (click to open full-sized image in a new tab):

Privacy & Security section

  1. In the Enhanced Tracking Protection subsection Select Custom radio button and leave everything checked as is (we’ll return to cookies and tracking with our add-ons).
  2. Leave Send websites a “Do Not Track” signal that you don’t want to be tracked set as Always (never-mind that no big web spy conglomerate like google cares about that setting)
  3. In the Permissions subsection click on Settings under Location, Camera, Microphone and Notifications, check Block new requests asking to access your [..] and save.
  4. In the Autoplay settings click Block Audio and Video as default behavior (or leave default Block Audio if you must).
  5. Check Prevent accessibility services from accessing your browser and restart Firefox.
  6. Uncheck everything under Firefox Data Collection and Use.
  7. Uncheck everything under Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software Protection unless you are a literal child or your computer is used by children.

This is how search settings section looks like after applying these settings (click to open full-sized image in a new tab):

Uninstall Mozilla Maintenance Service (Windows OS specific)

Open Windows Control Panel and uninstall Mozilla Maintenance Service. This service is supposedly only used to update Firefox and Thunderbird without triggering UAC confirmation dialog. After uninstalling this service the checkbox named Use a background service to install updates under Firefox Update subsection in General settings tabs will disappear.

Remove Pocket

Open about:config, search for extensions.pocket.enabled and set it to false.

Controlling Firefox through Windows Group Policy (Windows OS only)

For an example how to use Windows Group Policy for Firefox you can read here.

Essential extensions for privacy and minimizing distractions

Install the following extensions:

uBlock Origin settings

Subscribe to additional Filter lists: Adblock Warning Removal List from Ads category; Fanboy’s Cookie List, Fanboy’s Annoyance List and Fanboy’s Social Blocking List from Annoyances, Select your country specific block-list from Regions, languages and click Apply changes. So your filter lists look something like this:

Containing with Multi-Account containers

If you must use google’s services, but don’t like all that tracking business too much – this extension is for you. It spares you the inconvenience of disabling cookies altogether and prevents cross-site tracking by creating sandboxes for specified websites. Works best when combined with Cookie AutoDelete extension (explained further on).

Rename default containers to suit your needs. I name mine as follows: Google sandbox, Social media, Banking and Shopping. Then we force Google domains, like google.com, mail.google.com, youtube.com (and their country specific versions if needed) to always open in Google sandbox. After that we force all the twitters, facebooks and reddits to open in Social media container, your bank to open in Banking container and so on, you get the idea. To do that you open add-on’s menu, select desired container, open website you want to contain in that container and click Always open in [container], repeat with all the websites you want to contain.

Preventing tracking with Cookie AutoDelete

Open Cookie Autodelete extension settings and check these options:

  • Enable Automatic Cleaning? Delay Before Cleaning
  • Enable Support for Firefox’s Container Tabs

Your options should look something like this:

Cookie AutoDelete settings

Now you white-list or grey-list the sites you visit by opening them in an appropriate sandbox (read above paragraph). For example, when visit www.google.com, Firefox loads it as pre-configured in Google sandbox, and then I press Cookie AutoDelete icon in Firefox toolbar and add *.google.com to white-list as shown in the image bellow.

Repeat this step with other often-visited sites by white-listing cookies in their corresponding containers. This is more convenient than always deleting cookies, because you do not need to login and go through two-factor authentication every time you want to open you mail and at the same time confines those cookies to their corresponding sandboxes.

Every other site not in a white-list will get its cookies deleted 15 seconds after closing its tab (as per Cookie AutoDelete settings above). You can use grey-list to preserve site’s cookies until you close your browser (I find it most useful for e-shopping websites, so cookies won’t get deleted while you were redirected to the payment processor).

Stop CDN tracking with Decentraleyes

Decentraleyes stops requests to various content delivery networks (CDN) for various resources like JS libraries. It comes bundled with commonly used resources on the web and injects them locally instead of making remote request to some CDN. Works good out of the box.

Protecting uBlock Origin with Nano Defender

The purpose of Nano Defender is to stop anti-adblock measures by certain sites. To make it work with uBlock Origin, follow these steps as laid out by the author of Nano Defender.

Forcing HTTPS with HTTPS Everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere forces HTTPS usage if you make HTTP request but server also supports HTTPS. Works out of the box.

Tidying up Firefox

I like my software compact and not wasting any space, so default Firefox install needs some clean-up. I mean wtf is this:

To fix this right-click on the marked empty space and select Customize. Now right click on empty rectangles and select Remove from toolbar, or simply drag them away to the space bellow.

While you are here drag Add-ons, Zoom Controls, Options and New Private Window items to the toolbar.

In the strip down bellow click Toolbars and check both Menu Bar and Bookmarks Toolbar, also click Density, select Compact and uncheck Use Touch for Tablet Mode.

If you are using Linux, uncheck Title bar, if enabled, to make this:

into this:

Click Done, populate (with time) your bookmarks bar and marvel at its beauty:

about:config settings

browser.tabs.closeWindowWithLastTab = false //Do not close Firefox window after closing last tab.

Usability Extensions

Install the following extensions:

Improving your tab game with Tree Style Tab extension

Tree Style Extension allows you to organize and manage your open browser tabs hierarchically in the process saving that sweet vertical space by moving your tabs to the side.

However to save that sweet vertical space there are some extra steps involved. First you must create a folder named chrome in you Firefox profile folder. To do that open a new tab, in the address field enter and load about:support, then press Open Folder button next to Profile Folder field. In this opened location you need to create aforementioned chrome folder and in this new folder you must place a file called userChrome.css, which must contain the following content:

.titlebar-spacer[type="pre-tabs"] {
  visibility: collapse !important;
}
#TabsToolbar {
    visibility: collapse;
    overflow: visible;
}
#TabsToolbar > * {
    visibility: collapse;
}
#TabsToolbar .titlebar-buttonbox-container {
    visibility: visible !important;
    position: absolute;
    right: 0;
}

Now open new tab in your Firefox browser, visit about:config, search for toolkit.legacyUserProfileCustomizations.stylesheets setting and set it to true.

Now you can restart Firefox and, voilà – Firefox’s tab toolbar disappeared and only Tree Style Tab side bar shows (press F1 if it doesn’t).

Post updated 2020-10-23. Everything works with Firefox 81.0.2.