It’s been a slow burn, but the new Firefox Android browser has finally landed—in Europe, anyway. US users will have to wait until August 27 (or install the beta version) for access, but if the preview build is any indication, this new mobile browser is a much better experience than Mozilla’s last attempt.
The overhauled browser offers a better interface with an easier-to-reach bottom URL menu, smart tab and bookmark management features, dark mode and even picture-in-picture video playback. While the finalized UI hasn’t strayed much from what we saw in the initial preview build, I’m not complaining; these changes make the new Firefox much easier to control than its clunky predecessor.
However, the biggest game-changers are Firefox mobile’s new privacy controls. The browser includes several new features and settings that let users customize the level of security they want. The default settings are good, but you’ll need to configure a few things in order to get the highest level of security possible.
Enhanced Tracking Protection
G/O Media may get a commission
The most exciting of the new features is the Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), which blocks social media trackers, cross-site cookies and even ads, depending on how to customize it.
To find the ETP settings, tap the three-dot “Menu” icon, then go to Settings > Enhanced Tracking Protection. From this menu, you can customize your ETP’s settings. There are two presets available: “Standard” and “Strict.”
“Standard” is the default setting. At this level, Firefox blocks the following on all websites in all browsing modes:
- Social Media Trackers
- Cross-Site Cookies
- Fingerprints (your device’s unique browsing ID)
That’s better default tracking blocking than most mobile browsers, but “Standard” only blocks ad trackers in Private Mode. Mozilla says this ensures pages load properly and in a timely fashion, but if you want full security, you should opt for “Strict,” which blocks all trackers possible in normal and private browsing modes. This still won’t keep you safe from companies attempting to use first-party cookies to track what you do, but it’s better than nothing.
There’s also a “Custom” setting that lets you pick which trackers are blocked. Use this setting if you want to enable more tracking on the websites you visit (for whatever reason).
The last option in this menu is an “Exceptions” tab that lets you enable trackers only for specific websites you add to the list.
Whichever option you go with, you’ll know ETP is working when the shield icon next to a URL is highlighted. You can tap the shield to see what content is being blocked. There’s also a toggle switch for enabling/disabling ETP on the fly, and a shortcut that takes you to the ETP preferences menu.
The next big-ticket feature is the addition of mobile browser add-ons. Mozilla has been testing these in the beta version for a few months, starting with uBlock Origin; nine add-ons are available in the app at launch and more apps from Mozilla’s list of Recommended desktop add-ons will likely make the jump at some point. For now you can install:
- uBlock Origin
- Dark Reader
- Privacy Badger
- NoScript Security Suite
- HTTPS Everywhere
- Search by Image
- YouTube High Definition
- Privacy Possum
Most of these will add extra privacy and security layers to ETP and Firefox’s other security settings. To find the add-ons, open the menu then go to Settings > Add-ons. Tap the “+” next to an add-on to install it.
Other important settings
ETP is a great privacy tool and it’s awesome that Firefox’s best desktop add-ons are rolling out for Android, but there are a few other options in the app’s Settings menu you should know about:
- Site permissions: This lets you view and manage if websites can access different data and features like your camera, location or microphone, or send push notifications. The most lenient setting still requires Firefox to ask for permission first before allowing said access, but you can choose to block permission requests automatically and in some cases disable them entirely.
- Delete data on quit: Enabling this option lets you choose which data is automatically deleted from your device and the browser’s history when you close the app. Note that you must tap the “Quit” button in the menu for this to take effect. You can also delete your data at any time by tapping the “Delete Browsing Data” button above this one.
- Private browsing: This menu lets you add a private browsing shortcut to your app screen. You can also set Firefox to open links in private mode by default and enable screenshots to be taken while in private mode (a feature that is normally turned off).
- Data collection: Lets you decide which usage data Mozilla can collect, whether the company can share your data with marketers and whether the browser can install experimental features. The browser tracks and shares this data by default, so be sure to hit up this menu and disable these settings if you don’t want it to.
Be sure to review these options once you’ve installed the new version of Firefox, as well as ETP and the recommended add-ons. The browser is pretty secure out of the box, but these extra settings can make i