Privacy implications with the unified search and address bar
Hello, I am using Firefox with the unified search bar with Google set as the default search engine showing search suggestions along with URLs when I type. So my question more specifically is to know if I had search suggestions turned on and so whatever I am typing on the address bar (not necessarily to search but to autocomplete a previously visited url), does it automatically get sent to Google regardless? Please note that I do want to see both the search and URLs together in the awesome bar but just want to to know the privacy implications of sending everything to Google.
Please let me know, thanks.
Additional System Details
- User Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.14; rv:67.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/67.0
I think it depends on what you type.
(1) I type r and then press Enter to load the suggested Reddit address
Firefox didn't request any suggestions.
(2) I type fa and then press Enter to load the suggested Facebook address.
Firefox sent fa to Google's search suggestion URL before I pressed Enter:
(3) I type https://
Firefox sent ht and htt but then stopped requesting suggestions, presumably because it looked like an address.
I'm not sure what the practical significance of these little fragments would be to Google's ability to build a more complete picture of you. As far as I can tell from looking at the background request (XHR) in Firefox's Browser Console, the cookies that Firefox would normally send when I load a Google page are NOT sent with the suggestion request. But of course you can't make a web request with sending an IP address, so there's still the potential for the data being matched up. Presumably Google says that it doesn't/won't.
I'll mention that if you want to ensure privacy, you can start your address bar input with a modifier that bypasses search suggestions, such as:
(A) * only matches page titles and URLs in bookmarks
(B) ^ only matches page titles and URLs in history
(C) # only matches page titles in bookmarks and history
(D) $ only matches URLs in bookmarks and history
Thanks jscher2000 for your replies!
But according to the support article the modifiers are to be used after the search terms, so there might still be the problem of search terms leaking to google I guess?
Is there anyway to configure Firefox like Vivaldi which has an option "Only when Using Search Engine Nickname" that prevents search terms leaking to the default search engine automatically?
This would be similar to searching with keywords for other search engines in Firefox, the only thing is that I want that also for the default search engine where Firefox will show me search suggestions for the default search engine in the awesome bar ONLY when I am searching with the keyword.
Right, you need to type the modifier first to avoid having your entry interpreted as a search.
To make Firefox work like your description of Vivaldi:
First, turn off searching in the default search engine from the URL bar, as follows:
(1) In a new tab, type or paste about:config in the address bar and press Enter/Return. Click the button promising to be careful or accepting the risk.
(2) In the search box above the list, type or paste keyw and pause while the list is filtered
(3) Double-click the keyword.enabled preference to switch the value from true to false
Second, if you haven't already, assign convenient "keywords" to built-in search engine plugins, such as g for Google. Go to the Options page, Search panel, scroll down to the One-Click Search Engines box, and double-click in the Keyword column to open a hidden form field to assign a keyword. (Screenshot attached for reference.)
And then, finally, third, test your changes. If you just type firefox in the address bar, you shouldn't get any search suggestions and Firefox won't search it. If you use your keyword and then a space (not a tab like in Chrome) then type firefox you should get suggestions and Firefox should show you on the top line of the drop-down which site is being used.
I just realized it is very unintuitive that you set keyword.enabled to false and then use keywords to search. Oh well.
Thanks jscher2000 for your replies!
I followed your instructions, however I am not getting any search suggestion for the default search engine (i.e. Google) even when using the assigned keyword after setting keyword.enabled to false.
Could you explain why keyword.enabled need to be set to false? If it is set to false, isn't the behaviour above the expected one?
Please let me know, thanks.
Hi boka, is keyword.enabled is set to true, suggestions will be requested from your default search engine automatically, even if you do not use a keyword.
I tested in a new profile. Can you compare your settings with the attached screenshots?
Hi jscher2000, yes if "keyword.enabled = true" and "Show search suggestions in address bar results" is checked, search suggestions will be automatically shown in the awesome bar. So in this case (assuming g is the keyword for Google and Google is default): firefox = search suggestions + autocomplete g firefox = search suggestions + autocomplete
But what I am looking for is the below behaviour for the default search engine: firefox = autocomplete g firefox = search suggestions + autocomplete
Again, as previously mentioned I want to know if it's possible to mimic the Vivaldi behaviour of "Only when Using Search Engine Nickname" in firefox.
I hope I was able to explain. Please let me know, thanks!
The steps I listed earlier (with keyword.enabled => false) work for me. I don't know why they aren't working for you. Just in case there's a conflict, could you try assigning a different keyword like goo to Google?
Hi jscher2000, success!
Setting keyword.enabled = false and setting a different keyword for Google worked! Now changing back to g again also works, so not sure what it was conflicting with initially. But thanks so much for your help, this is exactly what I wanted!
(Don't know of your involvement with Firefox, but it would be great if you can pass on a suggestion to them about adding this setting in the UI in the Default Search Engine section of preferences, just like Vivaldi).
But, thanks again.
Note that you can also type a '@' to initiate a search with one of the search engines.