While we were basking in annual smartphone upgrades, something new arrived under the Google sun. Privacy. It’s a thing these days and as big as Google and Facebook and similar hackers are, privacy is worth something.
Take Mozilla’s Firefox. Depending upon who you talk to, Firefox is either, 1) on its deathbed now that Microsoft has chosen Google Chromium as its browser engine, or, 2) ready for a resurrection as the browser of choice for certified privacy browser buffs.
One. Click. Private.
The deal with privacy protection while you browse the interwebs should be drop dead simple; so easy that a congressman or congresswoman could do it; so easy that residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue could do it.
Unfortunately, nothing is that easy, but the newest Firefox is coming oh so close.
Firefox 65 updates its controls for how the web browser manages content like tracker software and cookies — small text files a website can store on your computer that are handy for things like remembering what’s in your e-commerce shopping cart, but also for letting advertisers record what you’re doing online.
Another knob. Actuall, a click or two to get privacy settings the way you want, and then it’s mostly set it and forgetaboutit.
Firefox Preferences point to privacy and security enhancements that are moving in the right direction, but still too far out of sight for most browser users. For example, you have to click Preferences, then click Privacy and Security, then wade through a pile of settings. Most are self explanatory but some must be confusing to browser users who do not understand what is happening online and why they need more security and better privacy.
I set Firefox to Never Remember History. No Location, no camera, no microphone access. In the Security arena I ask Firefox to Block Dangerous and Deceptive Content, Block Dangerous Downloads, and Warn About Unwanted Software.
Fair enough, right?
Browser Privacy gives you options for Content Blocking, specifically third-party trackers, and, yes, you can manage exceptions. Keep it Standard (blocks known trackers in Private Windows) for easier browsing, or make it Strict that blocks everything Firefox detects.
These are good options but there is a major problem. There really isn’t a knob or easy access to the privacy and security options from the browser tab. You still have to dig into Preferences. What we need is, well, a knob. A button. A one-click option to implement tighter security. A slider bar would be nice. Slide up for less privacy and security, slide down for more.
That’s the kind of knob that users need. You won’t find such and animal on Safari or Chrome or Chromium because Apple and Google have a vested financial interest in keeping you away from such controls.