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Firefox's new advertising, tracking, and search control

Firefox has added a new feature called Firefox suggest that allows them to have more control what you see and to force more ads on you. I explain it and show you how to turn it off.

Firefox describes their new scheme as: "Navigate the Web faster with Firefox Suggest". The idea is to make suggestions when you enter words into the address bar. This is what it looks like.

So while you type in the words, they offer alternative suggestions for search from your search engine (Google above), and then their special suggestions which will include paid advertisements and whatever else they'd like you to see given the information they have about you.

Firefox suggest is enabled by default despite being called Opt-in. It is not opt-in. Mozilla has a long history standing up for our freedom and against invasions of our privacy. But recently, they got a new CEO who has stated in writing, that the tech companies need to do more to prevent us from seeing content they don't like. She calls that content mis-information, but that definition seems to be, "We don't like it." So, I no longer trust the company.

How Vivaldi does it

The idea of helping you with the correct words for a search is a good idea. It can be very helpful. Here's how Vivaldi does it.

I put in Bluebook speakers and Vivaldi examines my history (typed and browser) and finds I've gone to Amazon with that request before. Also, it uses DuckDuckGo to provide better search terms I could choose. In this case, adding "for smartphones" is a good idea because that is what I wanted. I clicked on that option and got better results.

Vivaldi is not putting paid ads in the list and though they put me at the mercy of my search engine for suggestions of better words, those aren't their suggestions of what I should see or paid ads. I am getting DuckDuckGo's ideas, but not Vivaldi's as well, which could be influenced by both politics and paid advertising.

Firefox currently uses both Wikipedia and an advertising company called adMarketplace to make suggestions for you. Who knows what they'll use in the future. Google pays them around $400 million in a multi-year contract to be their default search engine.

Turning it off

Just go to the menu, then Settings,

Then choose Privacy & Security and scroll way down to Address Bar — Firefox Suggest and begin unchecking what you don't want. Besides unchecking the "Contextual suggestions" and "sponsored suggestions", I'd also turn off shortcuts and open tabs.

Date: November 2021

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