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This chapter is geared towards beginners & intermediate users. Some tech skills may be required.

Firefox

Mozilla Firefox browser

Firefox is the preferred browser when it comes to privacy, security and convenience. Firefox was first released back in 2004 by the Mozilla community. The browser is free and open source, highly customisable, blocks cookies & trackers and runs smoothly on virtually any device.

Install Firefox

Desktop

Download and run the Firefox installer.

Download the Firefox disk image, open it and drag the Firefox icon on top of the Application folder. For easy access, open the Applications folder and drag the Firefox icon to your dock.

Open the terminal with the Ctrl+Alt+T shortcut or click on the "Applications" button on the top left and search for "Terminal". Then run the following command:

sudo apt install firefox

Mobile

Download Firefox from the App Store, or visit the Firefox download page from your Android device, tap the "Google Play" icon and then the "Install" button.

Download Firefox from the App Store.

Are there other privacy respecting browsers?

There are, as listed in the table below. Please mind that we don't recommend using Chrome or Chromium based browsers from a privacy point of view. They run on code ultimately controlled by Google, and fortify Google's browser monopoly. Some of them are also susceptible to connect to Google's services. Also, some of Google's recent proposals aren't exactly comforting: the tech giant plans on using algorithms to profile users based on their Chrome history so that advertisers can better target them.

Browser Description
Librewolf Free, open source and privacy focused fork of Firefox. Disables telemetry and ads. Comes with uBlock Origin and privacy-conscious search providers out-of-the-box.
Icecat GNU version of the Firefox browser, meaning it's entirely free software. No proprietary plugins or add-ons, no trademark licensing. Icecat also includes security features not found in Firefox. Unfortunately, release cycles are a tad bit long.
Ungoogled Chromium Ungoogled Chromium is Google Chromium, sans dependency on Google web services. It also features some tweaks to enhance privacy, control and transparency.
Brave Chromium-based browser. For profit company, VC backed. Features an (opt-in) ad system, and faced criticism in the past for adding affiliate links that it profits from.
Iridium Chromium-based browser, claims to offer privacy and security enhancements compared to Chrome.
Waterfox Based on Firefox. Acquired by System 1, an ad company.
Vivaldi Chromium-based browser, assigns unique user IDs and collects user data.

Use alternative app stores!

If you own an Android phone, there's a way to download and update Firefox without using a Google account: Aurora Store! We'll explain how to use alternative app stores in a later chapter.


uBlock Origin

Privacy extensions

Add uBlock Origin to your fresh Firefox install. It's a free and open source content filter — and a good one at that! Head over to Mozilla's addon store, and click on the button "Add to Firefox". Various settings allow to increase your privacy, as detailed in the instructions below.

Show me the step-by-step instructions
  • Click on the uBlock Origin icon in Firefox's toolbar
  • Make sure uBlock Origin is enabled, the large power button needs to be blue
  • Click on the Dashboard button
  • Open the tab "Filter lists"
  • Select the checkboxes shown in the table below and click on "Apply changes"

Section Check box
Ads ☑ AdGuard Base
☑ AdGuard Mobile Ads
☑ EasyList
Privacy ☑ AdGuard Tracking Protection
EasyPrivacy
☑ Fanboy's Enhanced Tracking List
Annoyances ☑ AdGuard Annoyances
☑ AdGuard Social Media
☑ Anti-Facebook
☑ EasyList Cookie
☑ Fanboy's Annoyance
☑ Fanboy's Social
☑ uBlock filters - Annoyances

Refer to uBlock's official documentation or one of the many online tutorials if you're interested in more advanced usage.

Add HTTPS Everywhere to your fresh Firefox install. It's a privacy extension which enables Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) by default, a form of encryption to protect web traffic. Navigate to "Menu ‣ Add-ons" and click on the + symbol next to HTTPS Everywhere.

Also add uBlock Origin, a free and open source content filter — and a good one at that! Navigate to "Menu ‣ Add-ons" and click on the + symbol next to uBlock Origin. Various settings allow to increase your privacy, as detailed in the instructions below.

Show me the step-by-step instructions
  • Navigate to "Menu ‣ Add-ons ‣ uBlock Origin"
  • Make sure uBlock Origin is enabled, the large power button needs to be blue
  • Click on the Dashboard button
  • Open the tab "Filter lists"
  • Select the checkboxes shown in the table below and click on "Apply changes"

Section Check box
Ads ☑ AdGuard Base
☑ AdGuard Mobile Ads
☑ EasyList
Privacy ☑ AdGuard Tracking Protection
EasyPrivacy
☑ Fanboy's Enhanced Tracking List
Annoyances ☑ AdGuard Annoyances
☑ AdGuard Social Media
☑ Anti-Facebook
☑ EasyList Cookie
☑ Fanboy's Annoyance
☑ Fanboy's Social
☑ uBlock filters - Annoyances

Refer to uBlock's official documentation or one of the many online tutorials if you're interested in more advanced usage.

Show me a summary video

Tell me more about privacy extensions

Use extensions with parsimony. They facilitate fingerprinting, a practice used to collect information, track browsing habits and deliver targeted advertising. The more extensions, the more unique your fingerprint, and the larger the attack surface. Want to know how easy it is to identify and track your browser? Head over to EFF's Cover Your Tracks.

Use extensions with caution. Some might break websites. Add new extensions progressively and disable them in case of negative impacts. It can be challenging to strike the right balance between privacy and usability.

Finally, some advice for social network users. Don't check boxes in uBlock Origin's filter list section "Annoyances" if you use social sharing buttons from Facebook, Twitter and the like.

Extension Description
Clear URLs Remove tracking elements from URLs.
Cookie autodelete Automatically delete unused cookies when closing tabs.
I don't care about cookies Get rid of cookie warnings.
Miner block Block cryptocurrency miners.
Cloud firewall Block connections to cloud services from Google, Amazon, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Cloudflare.
CSS exfil protection Guard your browser against data theft from web pages using CSS.
Disconnect Visualise and block web tracking.
Don't touch my tabs Prevent tabs opened by a hyperlink to control the webpage you came from.
Noscript Allow only trusted web sites to execute JavaScript, Java, Flash and other plugins.
HTTPS everywhere Encrypt web traffic, make browsing more secure.
Privacy badger Stop advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly spying on you.
Decentraleyes Block tracking via content delivery networks operated by third parties.
Terms of service; didn't read Understand websites' terms & privacy policies, with ratings and summaries.


Firefox hardening

Privacy & security settings

Open a new tab in Firefox. Remove any clutter from the empty tab, such as "Top Sites" or "Highlights". Next, type about:preferences in the address bar to access Firefox's privacy and security settings. More detailed instructions below.

Show me the step-by-step instructions

Warning: Apply these settings with caution, some might break web sites. Add new settings progressively and disable them in case of negative impacts.

Menu Settings
General In the section "Language", uncheck the box "Check your spelling as you type".
General In the section "Browsing", uncheck the two boxes "Recommend extensions as you browse" and "Recommend features as you browse".
Home In the section "Firefox Home Content", uncheck the boxes "Top Sites", "Highlights" and "Snippets".
Search In the section "Search Suggestions", uncheck the box "Provide search suggestions".
Search In the section "Search Shortcuts", remove Google, Bing, Amazon and Ebay.
Search Browse to Disroot Searx and add it to the default search engines by clicking on the 3-dot actions menu in the address bar.

Remark: You'll find more suggestions on privacy respecting search engines at the end of this section.
Search Go back to the section "Default Search Engine" in Firefox's settings and select Disroot SearX.
Privacy & Security In the section "Tracking Protection", select "Always Send websites a Do Not Track signal".
Privacy & Security In the section "Cookies and Site Data", select "Delete cookies and site data when Firefox is closed". Then click on "Clear Data" and erase all cookies and site data stored by Firefox.
Privacy & Security In the section "Logins and Passwords", unselect "Ask to save logins and passwords for websites".
Privacy & Security In the section "History", select "Use custom settings for history".

Uncheck the boxes "Remember browsing and download history" and "Remember search and form history".

Instead, check the box "Clear history when Firefox closes". Then click on "Clear History" and erase all data stored by Firefox.

Remark: this is a work-around, as for some obscure reason "Never remember history" breaks many add-ons.
Privacy & Security In the section "Firefox Data Collection and Use", uncheck all entries.
Privacy & Security In the section "HTTPS-Only Mode", select "Enable HTTPS-Only Mode in all windows". This enables the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) by default, a form of encryption which protects web traffic. A green lock should show up in Firefox's address bar each time you navigate to a website.
General (Optional) Check the box "Always check if Firefox is your default browser" and click on "Make Default".

Launch Firefox. On the welcome screen, scroll down and click on the button "Start browsing". Remove any clutter from the empty tab, such as "Google" or "Top Articles". Next, navigate to "Menu ‣ Settings" and adjust Firefox's privacy and security settings. More detailed instructions below.

Show me the step-by-step instructions

Warning: Apply these settings with caution, some might break web sites. Add new settings progressively and disable them in case of negative impacts.

Menu Settings
Search In the section "Default search engine", remove Google, Bing, Amazon and Qwant.
Search In the section "Default search engine", click on "+ Add search engine". Under "Other", fill in the following:

Name: Disroot SearX

Search string to use: https://search.disroot.org/search?q=%s

Then click on 🗸 to apply all changes.

Remark: You'll find more suggestions on privacy respecting search engines at the end of this section.
Search Back in the section "Default search engine", select "Disroot SearX".
Search In the section "Address bar", disable the options "Autocomplete URLs", "Show clipboard suggestions", "Search browsing history" and "Show search suggestions".
Customise In the section "Home", disable "Show most visited sites".
Logins and passwords Change the option "Save logins and passwords" to "Never save".
Logins and passwords Disable "Autofill".
Enhanced Tracking Protection Make sure the option "Enhanced Tracking Protection" is enabled. Select between "Standard" and "Strict" settings. Stricter settings will block more trackers and ads, but are also more likely to break websites.
Delete browsing data on quit Enable the option "Delete browsing data on quit". If you want open tabs to be restored after closing Firefox, unselect "Open tabs".
Data collection Disable "Usage and technical data", as well as "Marketing data".
General (Optional) Enable "Set as default browser".

Show me a summary video

Tell me more about privacy-respecting search engines

Search engine Description
Searx Open source meta search engine. Aggregates anonymous search results from various engines. Various instances are accessible online, for example from Disroot. Can also be self-hosted.
Duckduckgo US-based meta search engine, mainly aggregates Bing/Yahoo results.
Ecosia German meta search engine, mainly provides Bing results and plants trees.
Swisscows Swiss meta search engine, mainly provides Bing results.
Mojeek UK based search engine.
Metager German open source meta search engine.
Qwant French meta search engine, VC-funded (large multimedia company Axel-Springer is an investor).
Startpage Dutch meta search engine, mainly provides Google results. System 1, an ad company, is shareholder since October 2019.


Hardened Firefox

User.js

Firefox offers a whole range of advanced privacy and security settings. On desktop devices, these can be accessed by typing about:config in the address bar and confirming a security warning. Given the sheer amount of options, this can however quickly become tedious. An easier way is to install a user.js file. This small JavaScript file contains a number of pre-configured settings and loads each time you launch Firefox. More details on how to install the "user.js" file below!

Show me a detailed step-by-step guide

Warning: use "user.js" files with caution. The stricter the privacy level, the more websites might break!

Back up your current configuration, which is stored in a file named pref.js:

Instructions Description
Step 1 Type about:support in Firefox's address bar.
Step 2 Go to "Application Basics".
Step 3 Click on "Open Directory".
Step 4 Back up a copy of the "pref.js" file.

Now download your preferred "user.js" template. Find out more about available templates at the end of this section. Place the downloaded "user.js" file in the same folder as the "pref.js" file. Depending on your browser and operating system, this folder should be located here:

%APPDATA%\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\XXXXXXXX.your_profile_name\user.js

~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/XXXXXXXX.your_profile_name

~/.mozilla/firefox/XXXXXXXX.default-release/user.js

If at any point you need to revert back to your initial settings, just restore the file "pref.js" and delete the "user.js" file.

Show me a summary video

Where can I find "user.js" templates?


Firefox support

Support

For further details or questions, refer to Firefox's support documentation or ask the Firefox community for help.


Firefox