Current Version plugins

Firefox might get a Super Private Browsing mode in the future

Mozilla published the organization’s Research Grants for the first half of 2019 yesterday. The 2019H1 funding series seeks answers to 12 research questions in the categories “Growing the Web”, “New Interaction Modes”, and “Privacy & Security”.

The Privacy & Security group seeks answers and new solutions in two areas: Data, and Privacy & Security in Firefox.

In the latter, Mozilla states that it has an “interest in potentially integrating more of Tor into Firefox” and that this could lead to a “Super Private Browsing (SPB) mode” for Firefox users.

firefox tor integration

Tor Browser, a web browser based on Firefox ESR code that integrates Tor connectivity, is already available. Mozilla started to implement certain Tor features in Firefox as part of the Tor Uplift project.

Designed to make life easier for developers of Tor and to integrate privacy features in Firefox, Tor Uplift introduced new features in Firefox including a new fingerprinting resisting option.

The Mozilla Research Grant question goes beyond the Tor Uplift program as it suggests that Tor could be integrated in the Firefox web browser to power the browser’s Super Private Browsing mode.

The following questions are asked:

  • What alternative protocol architectures and route selection protocols would offer acceptable gains in Tor performance? And would they preserve Tor properties?
  • Is it truly possible to deploy Tor at scale? And what would the full integration of Tor and Firefox look like?

Firefox has hundreds of millions of users; if only a fraction of those would start using an integrated version of Tor in Firefox, it would have to be ensured that the user experience would be acceptable or better.

Scaling is one issue, and Mozilla would like to know if new protocols would improve Tor performance to address the potential bottleneck. Ultimately, it would come down to finding efficient options to run Tor at a very large scale without compromising anonymity or privacy.

Closing Words

Tor integration in Firefox could potentially lead to the retiring of Tor Browser. The Tor development team could continue to work on Tor, this time directly integrated in Firefox. The solution would offer several advantages but also potential issues.

Tor Browser is based on Firefox ESR. Integrating Tor in Firefox (Stable), would lead to faster development cycles and more issues the team would have to address. Firefox ESR does not get all the new features that Mozilla implements in Firefox directly.

Now You: Tor integration in Firefox: good or bad idea?

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