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Firefox 71: set a custom private browsing search engine

Mozilla plans to integrate a new search-related feature in Firefox 71 that gives users options to set a custom search engine for private browsing.

Private browsing is a special browsing mode designed to improve local privacy for the most part; some data that is stored by the browser automatically in regular mode is not stored in that mode. Firefox won’t remember visited pages or searches of private browsing sessions. Private Browsing mode has some tweaks in place that reduce the ability of remote sites to track users, Referer Path Stripping being one.

Mozilla thought about creating a super private browsing mode in 2019 but it is unclear if it will ever be designed and implemented.

Tip: you can open select sites automatically in Firefox’s private browsing mode.

Firefox 71: custom private browsing search engine

The current stable version of Firefox, Firefox 69.x, uses the same search engine for regular browsing and private browsing. Firefox does support options to switch to a different search engine quickly using on-off searches but that would require direct user interaction.

Mozilla plans to add an option to Firefox 71 that gives users control over the search engine in private browsing mode. Firefox users who don’t want to use the default search engine can set a different search engine for private browsing mode that way.

The feature landed in recent versions of Firefox Nightly, the cutting edge development version of Firefox, already. It is hidden behind a flag currently but that flag is only required until Mozilla enables the feature directly in Firefox.

How to set a custom private browsing search engine in Firefox

firefox private browsing search engine

  1. Open about:preferences#search in the browser’s address bar; this should load the search settings of the browser right away. You can also click on Menu > Options and select Search when the page options to go there.
  2. Locate the “default search engine” section on the Search page.
  3. Uncheck the “use this search engine in Private Windows” option.
  4. Set a different search engine in the menu that is displayed.

Firefox will use that search engine from that moment on when you run searches in private browsing mode.

Enable the feature in Nightly

Here is what you need to do currently:

  1. Load about:config in the Firefox address bar.
  2. Confirm that you will be careful if the warning is displayed.
  3. Search for browser.search.separatePrivateDefault.ui.enabled.
  4. Set the preference to True.

The option to set a custom search engine for private browsing mode becomes available in Settings immediately.

Closing Words

Not all Firefox users may find the new option useful; those who have set the search engine to one run by a company that promises privacy protection may have little use for that feature, at least when privacy is concerned.

Those who have set it to Google, Bing or another major search engine may benefit from it when they use private browsing.

The custom search engine may also be useful if you want to separate searches, e.g. make all private browsing searches from a different search engine.

Firefox 71 will be released on December 3, 2019 according to the Firefox release schedule.

Now you: What is your take, how useful is the new feature? (via Sören Hentzschel)

Thank you for being a Ghacks reader. The post Firefox 71: set a custom private browsing search engine appeared first on gHacks Technology News.


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