I’ve been watching the packets of data fly in and out of my computer’s network card and I’m surprised how much unsolicited traffic there is. From my observation, the biggest consumer of those packets is Google.
Here are some things you can do to keep Firefox from sending too much information to Google. Break the tie between Firefox and Google.
1. Unblock “attack sites” and “forgeries”. Where does this list of blocked sites automatically come from? Google! I wasn’t aware until today that Firefox was so cozy with Google. It’s like Firefox comes bundled with Google now. Firefox sends data to Google with most of us not realizing it. I thought Firefox was independent from corporations, but guess I was wrong. It’s integrated with one of the world’s most powerful companies: Google. [I learned about this issue from here: source.]
One choice we can make is to uncheck the two boxes shown below.
- Block reported attack sites
- Block reported web forgeries
Some people have reported problems with slow-downs and crashes when these are options are checked, so it might even be a performance enhancer to uncheck them. Source: ubuntuforums.org.
Disadvantages to Blocking Sites
One question I have about this black list of “attack sites” is: How is this determined? Who gets to decide which sites go on that list of blocked sites? May I take a peek at this list? Is it open and transparent? How do I know that my websites are not on that list? I see a danger with such a list.
If a website has content that someone wants censored, they might put that site on the black list. Then, any time someone attempts to visit the site, they get creeped out when they see a message telling them it is a reported “attack site”. Maybe there are terrorists in that site!!
If people always believe that, then the content never gets viewed and people leave it alone. Seems like a way to censor the internet. The information is there for anyone to view, but since the site is reported to be an “attack site”, few have the courage to go in and look.
Permanent Google Cookie
Did you know that Firefox is bundled with a permanent cookie, hard-wired in, that you cannot delete, change or remove? This cookie is sent to Google automatically and frequently throughout the day. I believe that Google justifies this by saying they are giving you updates to the blocked list. The cookie is always the same. (You can see how this cookie is sent to Google using a packet sniffer program, like SmartSniff.) Google always knows your IP address and who knows what else they have. One way to change the cookie, and the second way to stop sending data to Google:
2. Reinstall Firefox.
I uninstalled Firefox, downloaded a fresh copy, and reinstalled it. Luckily, all of Firefox’s settings are saved in a separate folder and do not get destroyed during this process, so I still have all my bookmarks and add-ons working just like before the reinstallation. But now I have a new cookie that is being sent to Google.
OK, back to breaking the tie between Firefox and Google…
3. Use Adblock Plus. See my previous post about this Firefox add-on.
4. For additional privacy, turn off the referrer. This means when you go to a Google site (or any other site), it’s harder for them to know where you came from or what site you were at previously.
To do this, in the Firefox address bar, type in about:config.
Type this into the filter: network.http.sendRefererHeader
Double-click on the value (2 in the screenshot above). A window will pop up. Change the value to 0.
You could always go back any time and change it back to the default “2″ if you want.
Similarly, you could also set network.prefetch-next to false, which is what I did. Advantages to this are explained at: ubuntuforums.org.
I’m still not done. My computer is still connecting to Google without my consent, but now there is less of it and it’s less frequent.