Do Firefox Containers Protect Your Digital Privacy?March 29, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
Not everyone understands how cookies or tracking scripts work. Most people don’t understand how the internet works. You don’t have to understand either to use Firefox containers. Firefox containers can do a lot of the work for you in the fight against unwanted cookies and tracking.
Firefox Containers is an extension or add-on for the Firefox browser. Extensions are kind of like apps for your browser and give your browser additional capabilities. Examples of other extensions are ad-blockers, password managers, translation tools, VPNs, etc.
Firefox containers allow you to separate or compartmentalize what you do online so you aren’t sharing everything you do with every single site that has tracking scripts. These scripts allow companies to collect and store information on your online activity, such as the sites you visit or searches you make.
These tracking scripts and the connected cookies they put on your devices are the reason why you can search for socks on Amazon, then the very next minute see socks in an ad on a completely different website. Using containers keeps your activities on one website from being seen by all the other websites you visit. You can think Firefox containers like storing tracking scripts and cookies from each website in their own jars.
Understanding tracking and cookies without containers
Without Firefox containers, all of your browsing is done in one container. That means all of the sites you visit and the cookies they leave on your device are accessible to every website you visit. This allows you to be tracked from site to site. You see this often when you look at something online and you see it advertised to you on other sites. You are being tracked from site to site.
How Containers for Firefox work
Firefox Containers, on the other hand, allow you to segment or compartmentalize your activity online. If you look at clothes online in your shopping container the cookies and tracking that occurs in that container will not carry over into your online banking container. The banks are likely tracking you as well, but their scripts won’t connect your online shopping to your online banking accounts.
Once you install the Containers extension, you can create containers for any website you want. So you can have separate containers for Facebook, Amazon, PayPal, your bank, etc. Once you create a container for a website, as long as you always open it in that container, it will never share cookies or your browsing history with other websites. This greatly enhances your online privacy.
Install Firefox. Once Firefox is installed, search for and install the Firefox Multi-Account Container extension by visiting addons.mozilla.org. Once it is installed, you will be able to begin creating containers by clicking on the icon in the top right of your browser. After you create a container for a site (such as your email), open a tab in that container, and visit your email. All of the activity in your email will now be kept to your email container. Continue creating containers for all the sites or types of sites you need.
In a different container, that same website doesn’t have access to the cookies they left in the first container, meaning you won’t be logged in in the second container. You could even log in to a different account on the same site and the two accounts wouldn’t talk to each other. This allows you to keep your accounts separate.
Example container set up
- All Google services in one container, such as Gmail and google calendar
- Amazon in another container
- Your search engine (like DuckDuckGo) in a third (click here for more on privacy-friendly search engines)
- Facebook in another
- Online shopping in another
- Sports blogs in another
Now Facebook and Google will be limited in how much they can track you and show you targeted advertisements.
You have the option to force a site to always be opened in a specific container. Additionally, you can set it up so certain sites can never be opened in certain containers. For example, whenever you go to usbank.com, it forces the container tab to automatically change to your online banking container. If then for some reason you clicked something that took you to a different website, the container would not let it open in the online banking container.
While in the container you want for a specific site, click on the containers icon and select ‘Always Open This Site in…’ to make sure the site is always opened in that specific container.
‘Limit to designated sites’ will only let the container be used for sites that you have added to its designated sites list.
If you wanted to be extreme, you could create individual containers for all of the websites you frequent. Instead of just one online banking container, you could have a US Bank container, a Chase container, etc. Experiment and see what works for you.
Why this matters
With so many sites running third party scripts for advertising, tracking, or analytics, you are followed all over the internet. Even if you use a privacy friendly search engine, if the page you end up on has these scripts, they still know it’s you. Firefox containers puts a stop to this.
Where to start
Start by moving to Firefox if you haven’t already, as Firefox is the privacy-friendly browser we recommend. Install the containers extension and try using just a few containers to start. Experiment by putting your shopping websites in different containers and see if you notice a difference in the ads you see. See if you can add this practice to your arsenal of privacy tools. Privacy is a marathon, not a sprint, and every step you take makes a difference!