Privacy Issues with Firefox Tabs

Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 11:06 AM gHale

Privacy focused users sounded the alarm after learning the “New Tab” thumbnail feature in Firefox 13 is “taking snapshots of the user’s HTTPS session content.”

One user said he found the feature after opening a new tab only to be “greeted by my earlier online banking and webmail sessions complete with account numbers, balances, subject lines etc.

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“This content is behind a secure login for a reason,” the user said.

In response to queries on the matter, Mozilla said the behavior was undesirable and promised a patch. In the meantime, the browser and email client firm points privacy-conscious users toward various workarounds.

“We are aware of the concern and have a fix that will be released in a future version of Firefox. Mozilla remains resolute in its commitment to privacy and user control. The new tab thumbnail feature within Firefox does not transmit nor store personal information outside the user’s direct control.”

The new tab thumbnails focus on users’ browsing history. All information is within the browser and the user can delete it at any time. Users can also switch back to using blank new tab screens by clicking the square icon in the top right corner of the browser. That will change the default preference to show a blank page, rather than the most visited websites when a new tab opens.

Users who share their computer or use Firefox on a public computer should follow best practices for protecting their privacy by utilizing the built-in privacy tools in Firefox, such as Private Browsing Mode.

Firefox 13 released June 5, adding new features including updated new tab and home tab pages. The updated new tab page feature is like the Speed Dial feature already present in other browsers and displays cached copies of a user’s most visited websites.

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