Using Firefox Containers to Stop Data Collection
Multi-Account Containers is a Firefox add-on by Mozilla designed to help users define and separate their browsing sessions into distinct contexts called “Containers.” If you’re a Chrome user, Firefox Containers are conceptually very similar to users. They separate data into distinct silos and prohibit communication between those silos.
Here’s how you can use Firefox Containers to stop data collection, protect your privacy, and keep your many tabs organized.
What Are Firefox Containers?
Firefox’s Containers are like profiles, allowing you to segregate browsing activity within different profiles on your computer. This allows for some helpful features, like logging in to different accounts on the same website simultaneously. If used properly, Containers can also protect your privacy and weaken data collection efforts.
Containers are similar to users on Chrome. A new Container has no cookies, and any cookies that are set will only be accessed when using that Container. This allows you to separate your identities from one another and limit the power of online tracking tools. It also makes online life a little more convenient. Using Containers you can log into the same site with multiple users, keep work and home life separate, or just sort tabs based on purpose.
Containers are made by Mozilla, but they aren’t natively included in Firefox. To experiment with Containers, you’ll need to download the Firefox Multi-Account Container extension built by Mozilla.
Once you have the Container extension installed, you can start experimenting with how Containers operate.
Let’s start with a practical example. If you make frequent use of YouTube or Google Drive, you’re likely logged into your Google account at all times.
While this is necessary for the services that require it, Google’s search works just fine without a logged-in user. Only Google benefits from logged-in searches, as they can associate searches with your account and build a clearer advertising profile. Unless you frequently rely on a list of saved searches, this doesn’t do much for you. With Firefox Containers, we can prevent this behavior.
1. When we open “google.com” we see that we’re logged in by default.
2. Click the Container extension’s icon and click the “+” button in the bottom-right.
3. Name and customize your new Container, if you want to.
4. Click on the extension’s icon, and click on the newly-created Container.
5. Go to google.com in your new Container.
Notice that we are logged out of Google in this new Container. Our logged-in status is saved in the default Container but not in the Google Container. They will stay separated.
You’ll also see some unique features in the tab and address bar. This tells you what Container the tab is in. The colored flags make it easy to keep track of Container tabs by colors, even with many tabs open.
If you want to lock google.com to this Container, we can. Click on the Container extension’s icon and tick the box next to “Always open” to tie this URL to this Container. This will create a new Container tab, if you’re not already in the correct Container, and lock the URL to this Container.
You can create similar Containers that will help break up your online experience. This prevents advertisers from tracking you across multiple websites as effectively, helping to protect your information.
Using the built-in Work and Personal Containers, you can also separate your work and personal online life. If you have two accounts on a service for home and work, you can tie them to their own Containers so they don’t interfere with one another. This can also save the embarrassment of accidentally posting personal information with your business account.
Hiding and Showing Tabs in Containers
In addition to keeping online identities separate, you can organize yourself with Containers.
If we create a generic Research Container, we can use that Container to segregate our many-tabbed research projects. If you do much digging online, you know how quickly you can get thirty tabs mixed in with things like Twitter and YouTube. Containers provide an easy way to hide those tabs and recall them later, even after Firefox closes.
To hide all tabs in a Container, click the Container extension icon, then click the arrow next to the appropriate Container.
In the resulting menu select “Hide this Container.”
The tabs in that Container will disappear. To restore the tabs, use the same menu but select “Show this container” instead.
Opening New Container Tabs
Opening a new tab with the “+” button next to the last tab or with the keyboard shortcut (Ctrl + T) will open a tab in the default Container. To open a new tab in the current Container, hold Control and click the “+” icon. To open a tab in a different Container, long-click on the “+” icon and select the Container you want. To open a Container tab with the keyboard, press Ctrl + . and use the up and down arrow keys to select a Container form the menu.
If you want to open a specific link in a Container, right-click on the Container, then choose the “Open Link In New Container Tab,” and select the appropriate Container from the menu.
Container tabs can be used to protect your privacy by slicing your online life into chunks. They could also be used to organize your work via separation and colored tabs. It’s up to you, but once we started using Containers, we found them highly useful.
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