Technology

Mozilla Firefox makes private browsing more accessible to protect user privacy

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User privacy is something that technology vendors can’t afford to ignore. With research showing that 78% of users express fears about the amount of data being collected, technology vendors need to invest heavily in privacy to allay these concerns.

As concerns over privacy multiply, particularly as companies like Meta [subscription required] and Sephora receive fines for exposing user data, more and more vendors are feeling the pressure to put data privacy at the forefront of their solutions. 

This Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Mozilla Firefox announced the next release of its browsing solution alongside a new update to the web browser’s Private Browsing mode. The updated version offers users a new shortcut button they can pin to the desktop to instantly go into Private Browsing mode. 

“Last year we upleveled our Private Browsing mode by adding new privacy protections like Total Cookie Protection and HTTPS by default. Today, we’ve made it even easier to use by adding a new shortcut button you can pin to your desktop so you can quickly go to Private Browsing mode whenever you want,” the announcement blog post said. 

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The new update also introduces Firefox View to desktop, which will include up to 25 of a user’s most recently closed tabs, as well as a PDF editor and a text recognition feature that can separate and reuse text from images. 

Firefox addresses demand for private browsing 

The announcement comes as users are becoming more and more concerned about the privacy of their data, particularly in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe V. Wade, and users becoming concerned about personal and location data being shared with third parties. 

However, it’s important to note that while private browsing may provide users with comfort that their data isn’t being collected, it can also lead to a false sense of security. 

Private Browsing modes on browsers like Firefox, Safari and Chrome prevent the browser from logging sites visited or saving information like credit card numbers, but it doesn’t stop third parties, as well as internet service providers, from eavesdropping on the user’s activity. 

The only way users can protect their information from these entities is by using a virtual private network (VPN) to reroute their traffic through a remote server, and encrypt their own traffic so that it can’t be snooped on by any other parties.  

Looking at the top browsers in the market 

While this Firefox update is relatively small, when taken in context of the provider’s decision to add total cookie protection and default HTTPS last year, and the addition of enhanced tracking protection (ETP) to block cookies and cross-site trackers just a few years ago, it appears the vendor is looking to emphasize user privacy to distinguish itself from other competitors on the market. 

Security is top of mind for many other competitors in the space as well, particularly Google Chrome, which not only recently announced the release of passkeys and passwordless authentication options, but also offers its equivalent private browsing mode, Incognito. According to Oberlo, Google Chrome is the most popular browser in the world with a market share of 65.5%. 

The next largest browser is Apple Safari, which holds 18.8% of the market share. Safari also recently added passwordless authentication to its product offering with passkeys support integrated as part of macOS Ventura. 

At this stage, Firefox’s latest update simply improves the user experience for individuals who want to turn on private browsing, so they don’t have to click through to an isolated tab. 

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