Privacy Coming to Firefox Add-ons Also
Article by George Norman
On 26 Feb 2010
One of the great new features the final version of Firefox 3.5 had to offer was Private Browsing Mode. Once Private Browsing Mode (PBM) is turned on, the user can surf the web safe in the knowledge that no data about his browsing session will be recorded – this includes visited web pages, form and search bar entries, passwords, download list entries, cookies, web cache files.

As a little side note, this is something that even Adobe can relate to. The California-based company that specializes in creating multimedia and creativity software products announced that the upcoming Flash Player 10.1 will provide supportfor PBM in Firefox, InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer and Incognito mode in Google Chrome. The decision to support private browsing was spurred by the fact that the browser saves Flash cookies – which goes against the whole principle of private browsing (regular cookies are not stored, so why would Flash cookies be?)

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Getting back to Mozilla and the Firefox browser, one other thing makes the browser great – the option to customize it via an add-on. When Ehsan Akhgari, creator of the PBM feature, asked the Mozilla Add-ons team if they check to see if add-ons respect PBM, they realized that they do no such think. They also realized that they should do this.

The purpose of PBM is to not store any info about where on the web the user went. That is why the browser will not store URLs, cookies, and page content while PBM is turned on. Add-ons have the ability to store such browsing data; if they do it while PBM is turned on, they're trampling on the user’s privacy expectations.

“After some discussion with Ehsan, we decided to allow 2 different “levels” of privacy support:
  • If your add-on stores browsing data in any way, it must support PBM. This support cannot be disabled in any way, not even with hidden preferences.
  • If your add-on stores some other type of personal data, support for PBM is optional,” commented a member of the Mozilla Add-ons team.




Tags: Mozilla, Firefox, Add-on, Private Browsing Mode
About the author: George Norman
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