A ‘super private browsing’ mode could be headed to Firefox

Pixabay via Alexas_Fotos. Click for original. (Image credit: Pixabay via Alexas_Fotos)

Mozilla is exploring ways in which it can offer Firefox users an even more private browsing experience that goes above and beyond the current implementation. To do that, a new "Super Private Browsing" mode would tap into the Tor network to offer users a level of anonymity, in addition to clearing out cookies and cache.

Private browsing modes are nothing new; every major browser has one. It's called Icognito Mode in Chrome, Private Browsing in Firefox, and InPrivate Browsing in both Edge and Internet Explorer. They are all similar, in that each mode runs in a separate window and does not save your browsing history, cookies, site data, or information you enter into forms.

What private browsing modes don't do, however, is make your presence on the web anonymous.

"Private Browsing doesn't make you anonymous on the internet. Your internet service provider, employer, or the sites themselves can still gather information about pages you visit. Private Browsing also doesn't protect you from keyloggers or spyware that may be installed on your computer," Mozilla explains.

Super Private Browser would take that extra step. It would accomplish this by embedding Tor connectivity in Firefox. Tor, short for The Onion Router, is a network that masks a user's identity by routing and encrypting traffic across Tor servers.

One of the downsides to Tor is that all that routing comes at the cost of performance—browsing can be slow on the Tor network. That is one of the things Mozilla is looking at, to see if this is feasible.

"Tor offers privacy and anonymity on the web, features which are sorely needed in the modern era of mass surveillance, tracking and fingerprinting. However, enabling a large number of additional users to make use of the Tor network requires solving for inefficiencies currently present in Tor so as to make the protocol optimal to deploy at scale," Mozilla says.

This is one of several things Mozilla is exploring through its Research Grants program for the first half of 2019. Whether it comes to fruition remains to be seen, but the people behind The Tor Project are certainly excited about the proposition.

While there are challenges involved, this is not a farfetched idea. Over the years, Mozilla has already adopted some features of the standalone Tor Browser into Firefox, such as First-Party Isolation (FPI), which separates cookies on a per-domain basis.

In the absence of full Tor integration, the Tor browser is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).