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Mozilla The Internet Privacy

Et Tu, Mozilla? Firefox 3 To Get Privacy Mode 326

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-wrong-with-some-occasional-flattery dept.
CWmike writes "Mozilla will respond to Google's Chrome and Microsoft's IE8 with its own private-browsing, or 'porn' mode in Firefox, according to notes posted on its Web site, and is on track to deliver one in 3.1, the version that will likely go beta next month."
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Et Tu, Mozilla? Firefox 3 To Get Privacy Mode

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  • Realism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lisaparratt (752068) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:20AM (#24975943)

    What's wrong with a little realism? Viewing porn is one of the major uses of a web browser, thus such a facility is practically a no-brainer.

  • by overeduc8ed (799654) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:22AM (#24975947)
    Safari has had a private/pr0n browsing mode for 3+ years [lifehacker.com]...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Daimanta (1140543)

      Quote from the site: "Pretty funny, those Mac users."

      I don't think they have met the worst Mac fans.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Firehed (942385)

        Maybe not, but we've been able to discreetly view porn for longer than the Windows and Linux crowds, which is really all that matters here.

    • Yeah, well, and firefox has had a extension for it since a few months later

      https://update-dev.mozilla.org:8080/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&id=1306&vid=6511 [mozilla.org]

    • Well technically (Score:5, Informative)

      by DrYak (748999) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:29AM (#24976391) Homepage

      FireFox/FireBird/Phoenix/FireWhatever has from day one featured an option for scraping any traces (and same for Mozilla and Netscape).

      The subtlety is that until now the control was rather coarse (you could either remove most of the traces or leave all of them. You could chose *which traces* : history, cache, cookies, etc. but *not wich tabs* you removed all cookies or all urls etc.).
      Whereas now you can fine tune for only some tabs.
      (although cookies could be changed from permanent to session-only for specific URLs)

      On the other hand, I was under the impression that Inter Explorer until very recently had the capability to only remove some traces (it was possible to purge the cache with a simple button click, but not all other forms of traces). But I haven't been a regular IE user, so I can't reliably assert whether or not IE could scrap all traces.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fprintf (82740)

        The trouble with not allowing cookies in the current addons, Stealther for example, is that it blocks the cookies entirely, rather than simply sandboxing them. So reddit or many other sites, for example, keeps asking if you are over 18 and won't allow you past until you allow it to set a cookie. With a sandboxed approach, the site can set the cookie to its hearts content and you, the user, know that the sandbox will be wiped clean when you close the browser/tab.

        • by DrYak (748999)

          (although cookies could be changed from permanent to session-only for specific URLs)

          So reddit or many other sites, for example, keeps asking if you are over 18 and won't allow you past until you allow it to set a cookie. With a sandboxed approach, the site can set the cookie to its hearts content and you, the user, know that the sandbox will be wiped clean when you close the browser/tab.

          Congratulation, you successfully described a "session" cookie.

          BTW that's my default type of cookies (Setting : "consider all cookies as session cookies". Then only put exception to the couple of website where I really need cookies carying data from one session to another).

  • by Ezza (413609) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:23AM (#24975953)

    Well what have I been using all this time then?

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:25AM (#24975963)

    firefox has had plugins for this for some time, they just weren't there by default.

    • by Daimanta (1140543) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:30AM (#24975985) Journal

      True.

      First page I found in Google:

      http://lifehacker.com/software/privacy/download-of-the-day-stealther-firefox-extension-174752.php [lifehacker.com]

      When you have a good extension system, not everything needs to be incorporated anymore. Like an Adblocker...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        True.

        First page I found in Google:

        http://lifehacker.com/software/privacy/download-of-the-day-stealther-firefox-extension-174752.php [lifehacker.com]

        When you have a good extension system, not everything needs to be incorporated anymore. Like an Adblocker...

        Absolutely. I've used Stealther for a long while. It's the first thing I download (followed by NoScript) and... Well... I don't see a reason to incorporate that to FF. It's quick to get it and easy to find for anyone who wishes to have such... It works just like the extensions are supposed to work in FF!

        (That said, the stealther should get some bug fixes. It doesn't remove whole history but if visiting example.com and example2.com before putting it on, then visiting example2.com and example3.com and turning

      • by diegocgteleline.es (653730) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:22AM (#24976325)

        direct link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1306 [mozilla.org]

        It has 820.000 downloads, so it's not like people have been missing this functionality from firefox...

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by g0dsp33d (849253)
          820 isn't that many, it could be one person downloading it obsessively, even. I assume your using US numeric notation because you used a en-US link.
      • When you have a good extension system, not everything needs to be incorporated anymore. Like an Adblocker...

        On the other hand, some other things are so much useful, that I would be nice to have them packaged together with the installer, so users can easily select them if they wish.
        (That's already the case with the crash-report tool)

    • Actually, aren't most of these features built in already? It's built into the Options -> Privacy tab.
      According to the article, "privacy mode" would do the following:

      * Discard all cookies acquired during the private session.
      * Not record sites visited to the browser's history.
      * Not autofill passwords, and not prompt the user to save passwords.
      * Remove all downloads done during the session from the browser's download manager.

      All of those things can be set on the Privacy tab, in Options. Am I wrong?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by brunes69 (86786)

        The point of the privacy option is it makes it much easier to keep useful things like cookes and history for your day to day browsing while also allowing you to surf anonymously for your "private sites".

      • by DrYak (748999) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:40AM (#24976517) Homepage

        All of those things can be set on the Privacy tab, in Options. Am I wrong?

        The subtle difference is that since the old NetScape days, the pivacy can only controlled for the whole browser :
        You either scrap your whole history or you keep it.

        In Chrome, Safari and starting from version 3.1 of FireFox :
        one tab could be in private mode (for example not saving any cookie nor cache) while the next tab could be a normal tab with your usual web AJAX application running.

        Although I fail to realise who could simultaneously need to be able to fap at some p0rn in one tab while writting TPS reports at the very same time in the next tab.
        That's multitasking taken to some really weird proportion.

  • by pandrijeczko (588093) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:33AM (#24975993)

    I already know how to hide pr0n from the missus, I just need you to get it to me *FASTER*!

  • by allmanbro2 (1271890) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:36AM (#24976009)
    "However, it was yanked several months ago during Version 3.0's development."
  • Shouldn't this be called default mode?

    By default I put my snail mail in envelopes (keep my correspondence private), by default I put on clothes (keep my privates... private), and by default I expect the police are not searching my house or tapping my phone (4th Amendment privacy). Why isn't my browser private by defa.... oh wait, it's not my browser, it belongs to MS Google Mozilla, nevermind.
    • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:55AM (#24976127) Homepage

      You have a login on your computer right? So that other people can't see your files? That means they cannot see your browsing history either. The only reason for a 'stealth mode' is to keep the browsing history secret from *yourself*, so it doesn't helpfully autosuggest embarrassing sites when you start typing in the awesome bar.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by slaad (589282)

      By default I put my snail mail in envelopes (keep my correspondence private), by default I put on clothes (keep my privates... private), and by default I expect the police are not searching my house or tapping my phone (4th Amendment privacy).

      That's not really a good analogy. It's not like your browser broadcasts its history. It's just there by default to anyone using your computer. Take your wife (or husband) for example. Just as she, by default, at your computer and logged in, has access to your history, she also has access to what snail mail you get and, with luck, those privates you mentioned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      By default I put my snail mail in envelopes (keep my correspondence private), by default I put on clothes (keep my privates... private), and by default I expect the police are not searching my house or tapping my phone (4th Amendment privacy). Why isn't my browser private by defa.... oh wait, it's not my browser, it belongs to MS Google Mozilla, nevermind.

      The privacy is relative to people who can access your computer. I'm assuming you don't normally expect strict secrecy from your wife regarding your cor

      • I'm assuming you don't normally expect strict secrecy from your wife regarding your correspondence, your house, your phone, and your...privates. If you do expect that, you'll probably have to engage in non-default behavior. Just like here.

        That house, phone, and privates all belong to her because I married her. Using your analogy, would it be too much to ask for a purely platonic web browser without everyone flaming me as commitment phobic? ;-)

    • So do you also keep your clothes closet locked so no one can see your underwear, and do you keep the number of the page of any book you might be reading in a vault instead of using a bookmark and then destroy the book after finishing it?

  • Once again... (Score:2, Informative)

    Mozilla follows Microsoft's lead.

    (takes wagers on how this gets modded)

  • by thermian (1267986) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:39AM (#24976035)

    I can think of LOTS of other uses. For instance..

    um...

    ah, no wait, I've almost got it....

    um........

    Ok, I'll get back to you on this one.

    • by arktemplar (1060050) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:00AM (#24976167)

      Try - "Buying a secret present for your wife/girlfriend", I know, I know, slashdot - no wife/girlfriend.

      • by MadKeithV (102058) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:36AM (#24976469)
        Or buying a present for your secret girlfriend and hiding it from your wife?
        • That's what folks generally call a "mistress". If you're having an affair, she's not a "girlfriend".

          • by MadKeithV (102058)
            Yeah but if you don't tell your mistress that you're married she thinks she's your girlfriend!
        • Heh. Well my girlfriend tends to be very curious when she gets wind that I'm shopping for her. I have my own laptop+login so it's not likely she'll get a my browser, but if she did it would be nice to know she wouldn't be able to pull up my online shopping/browsing history. As it is I have to hide the presents to prevent her from poking/shaking/sniffing/investigating them in attempts to guess the content :-)

    • It's good for other people using your computer, since they can log in to sites which might automatically leave cookies to keep them logged in and then clear the history of this easily.
  • Links? (Score:5, Informative)

    by consonant (896763) <shrikant.nNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:40AM (#24976041) Homepage
    Uh, I know CWmike wants to promote Computerworld and all, but really a link to at least one of the "notes [mozillalinks.org] posted [mozilla.org] on its website [mozilla.org]" would have also been helpful..
  • Lets face it. Pornography has been around since the dawn of the internet and in all that time not one browser, newsreader or email client ever offered a "privacy mode" until recently. We're talking since BBS days here. Yes there are some people who would like to spin, or frame, these features as "porn mode". But this is a fairly transparent attempt to discredit what is an important, appropriate and yes disruptive new innovation.

    And what has spurred this innovation? What necessity has been the mother of this invention? Porn? No. Thing far more unsettling than that. Phishers, fraudsters, malware have all played their part. People need more protection nowadays. But most of the reasons for privacy features can be summed up in one word.

    Marketers.

    Modern marketers are utterly relentless, completely amoral and without any scruple whatsoever. They are are with enormous databases, and the desire to fill them with as much data as they can lay their hands on. Tracking users and their habits online, and assaulting them with advertisements based on that data has become an industry in itself. Every social networking website, every online newspaper, every site that has any ability to track its users whatsoever is piping that data straight to an eager marketing department which presumably has some method concocted to throw ads back at users who would rather be left alone.

    This is international information collection on an unprecedented scale in human history. To be sure, as of now this is only a practice of private enterprise, the current databases are disorganized and incompatible. But this is a new industry, essentially only a decade or so old. What will happen when its methods, theories and processes standardize? How dangerous will those databases be then?

    Google is not blameless in this either. Remember that the company makes its money not on searches, but on advertisements that it offers on its search pages and on other sites. That company is tracking probably the majority of web user by now, and any site that you go to that is affiliated with Google (this includes Slashdot), dutifully makes sure that your presence their and what you are doing is made known to Seattle, so that they may better know your habits. You think they'll just sit on all that juicy marketing data till the end of time and forever "Do No Evil"? Get real. They are a private company and will do whatever they like as long as it is legal. Watch it happen.

    So go ahead, call it a "porn" feature, but the reality is that those browsing for porn will probably not even bother to turn it on. It will only be used by those who understand just how dangerous so much personal data in private hands can be.

    Make no mistake, this is a disruptive technology. Marketers will not like it. Webmasters will not like it. Google will not like it. So expect substantial mudslinging surrounding this issue in the months to come.

    • by Ngarrang (1023425)

      Amen.

      I find it interesting just how invasive the marketers have become with internet browsing, and the fact that they find no moral qualms with doing it.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:19AM (#24976303)

      Modern marketers are utterly relentless, completely amoral and without any scruple whatsoever. They are are with enormous databases, and the desire to fill them with as much data as they can lay their hands on.

      Ok, settle down for a second and catch your breath. Good.

      I work for a company that sells software and services that tracks user behavior as they travel through sites. It sees what you're clicking on, what you're searching on, how long you're taking between clicks, and a few other things. From that data, it tries to figure out what you'd be interested in purchasing. Our customers, mainly online retailers, are free to display this information and recommendations however they see fit. The default display is a simple set of static images and prices for items you might want to purchase. We don't invite users to "punch the monkey".

      If you use "privacy mode", or otherwise blow your cookies away between sessions, we won't know who you are the next time you come to the site. So we have nothing to go on about who you are, so we'll probably end up showing you products that you probably aren't interested in.

      In essence, I think it's an unfair assertion that marketers are, as you say, "relentless, completely amoral and without any scruple whatsoever." It's their job to try to get you to spend a little more money on their site. If you were planning on buying a $50 item, why not show you a $55 item that more people with browsing habits like you like you are buying anyway? Yes, some marketers can be pushy about that, but that has nothing to do with cookies and tracking.

      • by MadKeithV (102058)
        No, next time the products you're trying to show that I'm not interested will still be blocked by NoScript and/or AdBlocker. And at least I won't be in your database.
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by bit01 (644603)

        Ok, settle down for a second and catch your breath. Good.

        Why should he? Why on earth should marketers have a soapbox, millions of hours of soapbox, and nobody else? Most marketers are an invasive bunch of pricks that have basically destroyed broadcast television (the net value of TV programs to the viewer is zero because of advertising) and are trying to do the same to the web, video on demand and pretty much every other media. Modern mass marketing has become a costly arms race to get mind share where e

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        so we'll probably end up showing you products that you probably aren't interested in.

        You do that already. All your products are ones I'm not interested in, if I want something I'll go hunt it out and buy it.

        Incidentally, you should be promoting the 'porn mode'. If suddenly all my 'off topic' browsing disappears from your advertising database, you have better quality statistics and significantly less noise. If I browse for work purposes, you don't want to be considering those sites to target advertising at m

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I agree with some of your sentiment, but I'm not sure how 'private-mode' provides any of the protection you seek... Other than removing cookies (which can be managed very easily now anyway), how does this 'disruptive technology' prevent server-side tracking of users' behaviour? Isn't the use of something like Tor more to the point?
    • Pornography has been around since the dawn of the internet

      Either you phrased that badly, or you're thinking of VHS tapes.

      Pornography (in the modern sense) was common enough in the Victorian era, and if I've done my math correctly, Al Gore hadn't yet been born.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wileynet (779280)
      What a rant.

      "Make no mistake, this is a disruptive technology. Marketers will not like it. Webmasters will not like it. Google will not like it."

      In case you missed it, Google put this feature into their own web browser product. I get it. People are afraid of Google because they are very large and powerful. But all this scaremongering and anti-Google sentiment is, IMO, unfounded. Yes, they have had instances where their "Don't be evil" pledge has been tested. However, overall, I have not seen them do
    • by Lennie (16154)

      Google is big, see how much they can track with just a few cookies, because they have: google-analytics, google-adwords and doubleclick. That's a really large part of all websites out there already. If you visit such a site, some refferer & cookie combination is send to Google. I do consider this to be a real problem.

    • by xant (99438) on Friday September 12, 2008 @12:53PM (#24980541) Homepage

      Google will not like it.

      really? [google.com]

      Google's browser is the first to include one.

  • Irony at it's best (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:45AM (#24976067)

    Pr0n mode can kill free pr0n in theory.

    Pretty much every single free porn site on the Internet makes money via affiliate programs. They offer free content in an attempt to sell you a membership to the pay site that the content comes from. The way the affiliate clicks are tracked is via cookies. If every web browser has an easy way to toggle cookie-saving while browsing porn then free porn sites could end up losing a ton of money. They'll go under if such browsing practices become the norm and affiliate programs can't figure out a better way to track than cookies. And avoiding tracking is one of the obvious purposes here.

    So a tip to surfers. If you have absolutely no intention of purchasing a pay-site membership ever then leave the cookies off and don't sweat it. But if you purchase porn at all then you're not doing your favourite free site(s) any service by browsing with cookies off.

    • I torrent my porn.

      Why the hell would I use TGP's for porn when I can download hours of fap-happy vids? Our favorite trackers have terabytes of porn tracked and available.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Two points:

      1) Cookies _are_ saved. Just not past the end of a session. If I click though an ad on a free porn (or any other type of) site to buy a subscription to a pay site, the pay site will still know where I clicked through from, unless there is some other workaround in place by the browser to hide it. All browsers already have a 'hide referrer' option.

      2) It's trivially easy for referrers to hash their affiliate ID into the URL that is used to go from the free to the pay site. Cookies and referrer URLs

  • Missed a trick (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tx (96709) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:51AM (#24976105) Journal

    What I would personally like is to be able to add certain sites to a password-protected "privacy list", so that visits to those sites would be stealthed, while visits to other sites would not. I don't want to have to start a special private session, which seems like a pretty lame way to do it. Mozilla should have looked at how to improve this feature by adding something like that, for example. Unfortunately it looks like Mozilla are just implementing the same thing as IE and Chrome, instead of looking to improve on it.

    • Re:Missed a trick (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dak RIT (556128) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:18AM (#24976299) Homepage

      A list of "private" sites is a pretty convenient way for somebody to figure out what sites you're going to that you don't want people to know about.

      The whole point of this is to *not* leave a trail.

      • by Tx (96709)

        That's why it would be an encrypted and password-protected list. If you're looking at child porn, that might not be good enough, but for most folks I think it would work.

  • Actually (Score:5, Informative)

    by tmk (712144) on Friday September 12, 2008 @07:52AM (#24976111)
    The privacy mode was included in some alphas of Firefox 3.0. The developers decided to postpone this feature because the release of 3.0 was already delayed.
  • by Stiletto (12066) on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:08AM (#24976221)

    Specifically, the mode would:

            * Discard all cookies acquired during the private session.
            * Not record sites visited to the browser's history.
            * Not autofill passwords, and not prompt the user to save passwords.
            * Remove all downloads done during the session from the browser's download manager.

    These are good web surfing practices to begin with. These seem more like bug fixes to me. Why not make them the default? Why would I ever want to browse without these safeguards?

    • by Permutation Citizen (1306083) * on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:32AM (#24976419)

      Because:
          * I like to be identified automatically when I open slashdot or any community forum.
          * I like to come back to the site I just found yesterday
          * I don't like to enter passwords again an again
          * When I download something, I usually intend to keep it for a while

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by theCoder (23772)

      Why are those on by default? Because they are nice features! I like the fact that Firefox remembers the dozens (possibly hundreds) of stupid logins that I have to various sites. I like the fact that cookies allow the site to remember who I am or my preferences so I don't have to log in each time I go there. I occasionally use the history to look for a site I visited earlier and can't remember the address to.

      In general, I use Firefox in my account, and no one (other than root) can get to any of that info

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday September 12, 2008 @08:12AM (#24976247)

    Simply a case of competition driving another cycle of improvement. Those people who like to claim there's no reason for open source developers to improve and innovate often forget that your basic human being is a competitive critter at heart.

  • I mean, free porn sites are not the most trustworthy sites in the world. It's good that there's disincentive to use the same browser to do your on-line banking and your porn hunting.

    It'd be better to do questionable things in a separate virtual machine.

    In the early days of the web browsers were innocuous. The worst you could do is download and run malware. Sensible people used to protect their machines by being careful about executable attachments to their email.

    Now that applications are becoming ne

  • How private is it if you boss can still look over your shoulder and see where you're at. Now if "privacy mode" can prevent that, THAT would be really privacy.

    Oh, wait! Nevermind.....

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      3m privacy film on you laptop/LCD? works great for me at work. they need to get very close to you to see what you are doing.

  • I will not be convinced of browser privacy modes to be fully effective until browsers decide to also have that carried over into the flash realm. I have confirmed that even in Safari's private mode; flash ads and programs still set cookies, and they are not erased when the session is closed like everything else. I find it also more frustrating that because it is flash; this cookie information goes across browsers since it is stored outside the realm of the browser. For the record i also find it frustratin
  • Sandboxie (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by dunstan (97493)

    Well, having used the free (gratis) nagware version of Sandboxie, I found it useful enough to cough up $20 or something for a non-nagware version. Doing this in the browser is the wrong place, but running your browser in a sandbox you genuinely protect yourself from sites which scribble all over your system (cookies, history, stored passwords, changed bookmarks, dodgy add-ons, ...). You *don't* protect yourself from spyware which scrapes there and then, but you can chuck away and filesystem or registry chan

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