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Firefox May Add Some Tor Features for Super Private Browsing Mode

May 9, 2019

Mozilla said in the company’s public Research Grants 2019H1 report that it wants to integrate some Tor features into the Firefox web browser with the end goal of adding a so-called Super Private Browsing (SPB) mode.

As detailed in the report, Mozilla would use the funding for “solving for inefficiencies currently present in Tor so as to make the protocol optimal to deploy at scale.”

This would eventually lead to a larger number of users using the Tor network for browsing the web which, ultimately, will also boost their privacy and anonymity on the Internet.le.”

“Academic research is just getting started with regards to investigating alternative protocol architectures and route selection protocols, such as Tor-over-QUIC, employing DTLS, and Walking Onions,” says Mozilla’s report.

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?

Tor’s privacy and anonymity features are already available in the Tor Browser which is a privacy-focused fork of the Firefox browser managed by the Tor Project and designed to layer the Tor features on top of a Firefox Extended Support Release (ESR) browser.

As the company explains, the project will allow Mozilla’s developers “To uplift all of the Tor Browser patches to mainline Firefox. The general approach is to add preferences for anything that breaks the web and set them to default “off” so that the behavior of default Firefox does not change.”

Additionally, Mozilla added a number of privacy features from the Tor Browser to Firefox over the years after various attempts to fingerprint users have been detected

For instance, back in December 2016, Mozilla engineers added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that automatically block websites from fingerprinting users using system fonts.

During October 2017, Mozilla’s developers have borrowed yet another Tor Browser feature which allows Firefox to prevent attempts to fingerprint users with the help of the HTML5 canvas element.

Mozilla added the First-Party Isolation (FPI) privacy-enhancing feature—known as Cross-Origin Identifier Unlinkability in the Tor Browser—with the release of Firefox 55 over the summer of 2017 allowing the browser to block online advertisers from tracking users across the Internet.

Firefox also comes with a Private Browsing mode which “automatically erases your browsing information, such as passwords, cookies, and history, leaving no trace after you end the session.”

The browser’s Private Browsing mode includes Content Blocking, a feature designed to block a wide range of hidden trackers from monitoring users across the web and collecting their data while also slowing down their browsing speed in the process.

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