Private Browsing and Private Data in Firefox for iOS

This tutorial is only intended for users running Mozilla Firefox on the iOS operating system.

Similar to the desktop version, Firefox for iOS stores quite a bit of data on your iPadiPhone or iPod touch as you browse the Web. This includes the following.

  • Browsing History: Each time you visit a Web page, an entry is added to your browsing history which includes the page's name and URL.
  • Cache: Images, text and other components that make up a Web page are sometimes stored on your device and used whenever you visit that page in the future in an effort to speed up page load times.
  • Cookies: User-specific preferences, login details, and other relevant information is stored in these text files, which are utilized by websites on future visits to improve the browsing experience.
  • Offline Website Data: Many websites utilize offline storage on your device including database data and HTML5-enabled application cache.
  • Saved Logins: Login credentials, including usernames and passwords, are saved on your device and prepopulated during subsequent authentication attempts.
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Managing Browsing History and Other Private Data

Firefox iOS browsing history
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These data components can be deleted from your device via Firefox's Settings, either individually or as a group. To access this interface first tap the tab button, located in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window and represented by a black number in the center of a white square. Once selected, thumbnail images depicting each open tab will be displayed. In the upper left-hand corner of the screen should be a gear icon, which launches Firefox's settings.

The Settings interface should now be visible. Locate the Privacy section and select Clear Private Data. A screen listing Firefox's private data component categories, each accompanied by a button, should appear at this point.

These buttons determine whether or not that particular data component will be wiped out during the removal process. By default, each option is enabled and therefore will be deleted accordingly. To prevent an item such as browsing history from being deleted tap on its respective button so that it turns from orange to white. Once you are satisfied with these settings select the Clear Private Data button. Your private data will be instantly deleted from your iOS device at this point.

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Private Browsing Mode

Firefox iOS private browsing
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Now that we've shown you how to delete browsing data such as cache or cookies from your device, let's take a look at how you can stop this information from being stored in the first place. This can be achieved through Private Browsing mode, which allows you to browse the Web freely without leaving many tracks behind on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

During a typical browsing session, Firefox will save your browsing history, cache, cookies, passwords, and other site-related preferences on your device's hard drive for the purpose of improving future browsing experiences. During a Private Browsing session, however, none of this information will be stored once you exit the app or shut down any open Private Browsing tabs. This can come in handy if you are using someone else's iPad or iPhone, or if you are browsing on a shared device.

To enter Private Browsing mode, first tap the tab button, located in the upper right-hand corner of the browser window and represented by a black number in the center of a white square. Once selected, thumbnail images depicting each open tab will be displayed. In the upper right-hand corner, directly to the left of a 'plus' button, is an icon which resembles an eye mask. Tap this icon to begin a Private Browsing session. There should now be a purple hue behind the mask, which signifies that Private Browsing mode is active. All tabs opened within this screen can be considered private, ensuring that none of the aforementioned data components will be saved. It should be noted, however, that any Bookmarks created will be stored even after the session has ended.

Private Tabs

When you exit Private Browsing mode and return to a standard Firefox window, the tabs which you had opened privately will remain open unless you have manually closed them. This can be convenient, as it allows you to return to them at any time by selecting the Private Browsing (mask) icon. It can also defeat the purpose of browsing privately, however, as anyone else that uses the device can access these pages.

Firefox allows you to modify this behavior so that all related tabs are automatically closed whenever you exit Private Browsing mode. To do so, you must first return to the Privacy section of the browser's Settings interface (See Step 1 of this tutorial).

To enable or disable this feature, select the button accompanying the Close Private Tabs option.

Other Privacy Settings

Firefox for iOS's Privacy settings section also contains two other options, detailed below.

  • Send Crash Reports: Disabled by default, this setting allows Firefox to submit detailed crash reports to Mozilla whenever the app closes prematurely. This may include information about your device, connection, etc.
  • Privacy Policy: Selecting this option displays the latest version of Firefox's Privacy Notice.

Please note that Private Browsing mode should not be confused with anonymous browsing, and that actions you take while this mode is active cannot be considered entirely private. Your cellular provider, ISP and other agencies as well as websites themselves, can still be privy to certain data throughout your Private Browsing session.