Our Thoughts On Firefox's New Private Browser, and Where Focus Falls Short
Yesterday Firefox announced the launch of their newest product, a free private browser for iOS devices. The announcement comes at a time when users - in the workplace and at home - are growing more and more concerned with internet privacy and freedoms.
The browser allows you to do everything you might want to do in Chrome’s incognito mode, without having to open a separate tab or window. Firefox Focus functions as an entity independent from Firefox’s traditional browser, allowing users to keep their private browsing activities completely separate from more public browsing sessions. Focus features functionalities that standard Incognito or Private Browsing Mode don’t offer, such as the ability to erase all of your session’s cookies in one tap with an “Erase” button (conveniently located alongside the browser’s URL bar), and it automatically blocks many (but not all) web trackers that collect your data as you browse. Additionally, Firefox claims that an added benefit of browsing web tracker free is a speedier connection - sites that monitor your activity will, Firefox claims, operate in a more streamlined fashion without the added task of collecting and saving your data. And when you do come across a site that does require tracking or data collection, you have the option of opening that site in a separate window through a different browser, letting you simultaneously browse privately and publicly without compromising the integrity of either experience.
A unique feature that Firefox Focus highlights is the extent to which one can not only block data collection and tracking but also customize it. If you’re the type of web user that appreciates customized marketing, you can keep advertisement tracking on to ensure you continue seeing ads geared toward your browsing habits, instead of ads pushed to the general public. And if you’re using Focus to exist under an established alias on social media or in forums, you can keep social tracking on so that your private browsing settings don’t interfere with your participation in such places.
If these features sound like something you’d like to integrate into your Safari browsing experience as well, you can do so in Firefox Focus’s settings.
Where Firefox Focus Falls Short
An important thing to bear in mind when using Firefox Focus for private browsing purposes is that like Incognito and Private Browsing Mode, its privacy has limitations. Focus does not offer a built in Virtual Private Network (VPN) or data encryption. As far as encryption is concerned, this means any correspondences made in Focus are not protected, unless you are using a site that relies on its own encryption services (such as Facebook). And without connecting to a VPN, your IP address can still be tracked, linking online activities back to your local server and even the device you’re operating from.
Must-have Tools Every Secure Browser Needs
Ultimately, the big browsers are in the middle of an identity crisis. They make their money off your data, so naturally they're reluctant to let it go. Users are left with browsers that strip them of their privacy first, then provide inconvenient tools to get a fraction of it back.
If the big browsers are truly on board with protecting your privacy, here's what we think they should do:
- Built-in true VPN. Many browsers that boast built-in VPN actually offer proxies. While proxies can provide some protection online, they aren't designed to protect all of your internet traffic. Tenta Browser offers true VPN, using the OpenVPN protocol. Learn more about OpenVPN.
- Complete data encryption. Using your browser generates more data than you realize. It's not just your browsing history and cookies that matter. In addition to encrypting your web traffic, encrypting the media and files you download from the internet would add another layer of privacy. Tools like custom secure DNS, setting up custom server locations, media encryption, and device-wide VPN come to mind.
- Offline and online protection. Built-in VPN, ad blockers and data encryption help protect you from online threats, but you also have real world privacy concerns. We all have personal bookmarks saved and open tabs linked to highly personal content such as banking, your medical concerns or the books you read that we want to keep private. Browsers should support the option to set a unique password/pin to prevent prying eyes from gaining access.
- Convenience. Private Browsing Mode in most browsers is anything but convenient, forcing you to choose between exposing all your data or losing all of the features that make browsing easy. The ultimate secure browser ties in all of these privacy tools in one easy to use and convenient app. This is no easy task. It requires a completely different philosophy and approach to building a browser, but we believe it's best way to offer a complete solution that you actually enjoy using.
A Step In the Right Direction
We're thrilled to see the big browsers take privacy more seriously. It means we're on the right track! In an age where we continue to see internet freedom decline worldwide year after year, it's imperative that tech companies do their part to ensure the internet remains a safe, open place for all of us.
If you’re concerned about privacy and want to take steps to ensure your browsing setup is as private as you’d like it to be, read up on how to Keep Your Private Browsing Private.
Photo courtesy of @reddangelo16.Share this post
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