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Firefox has been secretly saving my download history for the past 6+ months

Kuphostiwe

Looking for an explanation here if someone (preferably from the Firefox team) can provide one. I upgraded to version 20.0 this morning, and upon opening the new download manager window (Library) I was faced with my entire download history from the past 6+ months. This is something of a concern, because for as long as I've been using Firefox I've never had it set to remember my download history; it would always download a file and clear automatically to save me the bother of having to clear it manually.

It's rather concerning to me that a privacy setting has seemingly only been controlling what the user sees (i.e. an empty download history) as opposed to what Firefox is actually storing.

Is there a reason this has been happening? I'm already happy that it's nothing to do with DownThemAll as the files in the download history were not downloaded using DTA.

Looking for an explanation here if someone (preferably from the Firefox team) can provide one. I upgraded to version 20.0 this morning, and upon opening the new download manager window (Library) I was faced with my entire download history from the past 6+ months. This is something of a concern, because for as long as I've been using Firefox I've never had it set to remember my download history; it would always download a file and clear automatically to save me the bother of having to clear it manually. It's rather concerning to me that a privacy setting has seemingly only been controlling what the user sees (i.e. an empty download history) as opposed to what Firefox is actually storing. Is there a reason this has been happening? I'm already happy that it's nothing to do with DownThemAll as the files in the download history were not downloaded using DTA.

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  • I-ejenti Engumsebenzisi: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:20.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/20.0

Eminye Imininingwane

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iamjayakumars 493 izisombululo 5983 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

Firefox never use you Data or Content.

If you want more privacy, go with Private Browsing Mode, to enable

Firefox never use you Data or Content. If you want more privacy, go with '''Private Browsing Mode''', to enable *https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/private-browsing-browse-web-without-saving-info#w_how-do-i-always-start-firefox-in-private-browsing
juanpakete 0 izisombululo 1 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

Same here. I'm appalled to find that ALL my downloads have been saved when they supposedly were cleared after they finished.

And why no option to NOT save download history and save browsing history?. Why does it have to be both or none?.

Really, guys, every fucking version it's always like this. GIVE OPTIONS. No wonder everybody is moving to Chrome, this is like a fucking war. We can think for ourselves if we want to use the features or not, thank you very much.

Same here. I'm appalled to find that ALL my downloads have been saved when they supposedly were cleared after they finished. And why no option to NOT save download history and save browsing history?. Why does it have to be both or none?. Really, guys, every fucking version it's always like this. GIVE OPTIONS. No wonder everybody is moving to Chrome, this is like a fucking war. We can think for ourselves if we want to use the features or not, thank you very much.
cor-el
  • Top 10 Contributor
  • Moderator
17690 izisombululo 160039 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

Current Firefox versions show the download history in the Downloads folder in the Library (Bookmarks/History Manager) and on the about:downloads page.
That history is different from the history that you see in the classic download manager window (browser.download.useToolkitUI = true), so if you cleared the history there then you would still have the download history in the downloads folder.


  • Bug 838663 - Remove support for browser.download.panel.removeFinishedDownloads
Current Firefox versions show the download history in the Downloads folder in the Library (Bookmarks/History Manager) and on the about:downloads page.<br /> That history is different from the history that you see in the classic download manager window (browser.download.useToolkitUI = true), so if you cleared the history there then you would still have the download history in the downloads folder. ---- *Bug 838663 - Remove support for browser.download.panel.removeFinishedDownloads

Impendulo Ewusizo

Thanks for your reply Cor-el. The problem is that there were downloaded files showing in the new 'Library' that I no longer have on my system, plus the massive list included files that were 'Opened' as opposed to saved directly to a destination on my hard-drive.

If these files weren't present in my Downloads folder, and Firefox had not been showing these in my download history previously (that is, in versions 19 and earlier), I still can't work out why it was storing information that wasn't visible to the user, or where this information suddenly appeared from.

I appreciate this may be a simplistic view, but by my logic: Either the download history is stored and thus is visible to the user, or it isn't being stored in which case there won't be anything visible to the user. Firefox seems to have ignored a privacy setting here, by storing download history but providing the illusion of privacy by simply hiding the information.

Hopefully you can see why this is a concern.

Thanks for your reply Cor-el. The problem is that there were downloaded files showing in the new 'Library' that I no longer have on my system, plus the massive list included files that were 'Opened' as opposed to saved directly to a destination on my hard-drive. If these files weren't present in my Downloads folder, and Firefox had not been showing these in my download history previously (that is, in versions 19 and earlier), I still can't work out why it was storing information that wasn't visible to the user, or where this information suddenly appeared from. I appreciate this may be a simplistic view, but by my logic: Either the download history is stored and thus is visible to the user, or it isn't being stored in which case there won't be anything visible to the user. Firefox seems to have ignored a privacy setting here, by storing download history but providing the illusion of privacy by simply hiding the information. Hopefully you can see why this is a concern.
practik 1 izisombululo 9 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

Impendulo Ewusizo

Thanks for starting this thread, Voice. I made the same discovery this morning after updating to 20.0 yesterday. For at least a year now, I've had my preferences set to clear my download history whenever I quit Firefox, but now I find in my Library downloads going all the way back to September 2011!

cor-el, thank you for your explanation, but the fact that Firefox has been maintaining a separate, hidden download history was already clear to me, and I agree with TheVoice that you're overlooking a bigger problem. When I adjusted my preferences to clear my download history, my expectation was that Firefox would, well, clear my download history -- NOT simply clear a download manager window. I also have my preferences set to clear saved passwords on quitting -- am I now going to find out that Firefox has a secret registry of those hidden away somewhere too?

I don't really think I will, and I'm not worried that Mozilla will do something nefarious with my data. But I do want control -- not just the illusion of control -- over my browser. I use Firefox in part because of what it says in the Mozilla mission statement -- you know, the part about promoting openness on the web? Secret download histories are the opposite of open.

Thanks for starting this thread, Voice. I made the same discovery this morning after updating to 20.0 yesterday. For at least a year now, I've had my preferences set to clear my download history whenever I quit Firefox, but now I find in my Library downloads going all the way back to September 2011! cor-el, thank you for your explanation, but the fact that Firefox has been maintaining a separate, hidden download history was already clear to me, and I agree with TheVoice that you're overlooking a bigger problem. When I adjusted my preferences to clear my download history, my expectation was that Firefox would, well, clear my download history -- NOT simply clear a download manager window. I also have my preferences set to clear saved passwords on quitting -- am I now going to find out that Firefox has a secret registry of those hidden away somewhere too? I don't really think I will, and I'm not worried that Mozilla will do something nefarious with my data. But I do want control -- not just the illusion of control -- over my browser. I use Firefox in part because of what it says in the Mozilla mission statement -- you know, the part about promoting openness on the web? Secret download histories are the opposite of open.
zrbrtr 1 izisombululo 6 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

This is deeply disturbing to me. I want to look and see if my Firefox is storing this data, and if so, delete it and write-protect it so it is never written to again. But, I do not have a History Manager and Firefox says about:downloads is not a valid URL. Anyone have an idea on how to do this? I'm using Firefox 9.0.1 (and will not upgrade) if it makes a difference.

This is deeply disturbing to me. I want to look and see if my Firefox is storing this data, and if so, delete it and write-protect it so it is never written to again. But, I do not have a History Manager and Firefox says about:downloads is not a valid URL. Anyone have an idea on how to do this? I'm using Firefox 9.0.1 (and will not upgrade) if it makes a difference.
zrbrtr 1 izisombululo 6 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

Found the answer to my own issue. History > Show All History opens the Library from which these entries can be deleted. Hopefully that is the last of these hidden data stores, but I wouldn't bet money on it...

Found the answer to my own issue. History > Show All History opens the Library from which these entries can be deleted. Hopefully that is the last of these hidden data stores, but I wouldn't bet money on it...
Mike89 1 izisombululo 15 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

I am plenty irritated myself about Firefox's decision to combine the settings of saving/not saving History and Downloads into one setting. Firefox is losing it's way. What used to make Firefox was it's options. Now it dumbing down the options in the footsteps of IE. Adopting Microsoft's approach of "we know better than you what you want so just shut up and live with it". Not cool Firefox, not cool at all. Make these settings separate again like they used to be.

I am plenty irritated myself about Firefox's decision to combine the settings of saving/not saving History and Downloads into one setting. Firefox is losing it's way. What used to make Firefox was it's options. Now it dumbing down the options in the footsteps of IE. Adopting Microsoft's approach of "we know better than you what you want so just shut up and live with it". Not cool Firefox, not cool at all. Make these settings separate again like they used to be.
practik 1 izisombululo 9 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

If you want this fixed, you might want to install this add-on: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/download-cleaner/

In theory, if Download Cleaner gets enough users, Mozilla will be moved to restore its functionality to Firefox, at least according to one developer: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=838681#c23

And in the meantime, those of us who want more control over our download histories can have it.

If you want this fixed, you might want to install this add-on: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/download-cleaner/ In theory, if Download Cleaner gets enough users, Mozilla will be moved to restore its functionality to Firefox, at least according to one developer: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=838681#c23 And in the meantime, those of us who want more control over our download histories can have it.
Mike89 1 izisombululo 15 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

I am using "browser.download.useToolkitUI" for the old download manager (as I hate the new one) and I can say the above "Download Cleaner" addon works perfectly with it to automatically delete the Download History as you go. A shame a third party addon is needed to do what Firefox should be (and used to be) doing.

I had already taken Firefox off automatic updating after the new download manager came out (without Mozilla doing much research with their power base). As I'm nervous with Mozilla's apparent direction, I may never update Firefox again.

I am using "browser.download.useToolkitUI" for the old download manager (as I hate the new one) and I can say the above "Download Cleaner" addon works perfectly with it to automatically delete the Download History as you go. A shame a third party addon is needed to do what Firefox should be (and used to be) doing. I had already taken Firefox off automatic updating after the new download manager came out (without Mozilla doing much research with their power base). As I'm nervous with Mozilla's apparent direction, I may never update Firefox again.

Okulungisiwe ngu Mike89

Musicalman7 0 izisombululo 21 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

What all these guys said. I'm actually *seriously* considering way downgrading to a previous edition of Firefox I actually liked, pre v.12 or so like @zrbrtr is using 9.0.1. Yes, I know that is a big security risk, but maybe not as big as all this nonsense in the latest versions.

The fact that between v. 20 and v. 22 things were changed so that even workaround no longer work almost screams 'deliberate' and I agree that Firefox is moving backwards into 'dumbed-down, we-know-better Microsoft' territory. I want full control over everything my browser does *without* having to learn programming, and now most of the cool options I used to love have been totally removed from the 'updated' UI.

What all these guys said. I'm actually *seriously* considering way downgrading to a previous edition of Firefox I actually liked, pre v.12 or so like @zrbrtr is using 9.0.1. Yes, I know that is a big security risk, but maybe not as big as all this nonsense in the latest versions. The fact that between v. 20 and v. 22 things were changed so that even workaround no longer work almost screams 'deliberate' and I agree that Firefox is moving backwards into 'dumbed-down, we-know-better Microsoft' territory. I want full control over everything my browser does *without* having to learn programming, and now most of the cool options I used to love have been totally removed from the 'updated' UI.
cor-el
  • Top 10 Contributor
  • Moderator
17690 izisombululo 160039 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

The Downloads folder in the Library is present since Firefox 8 (2011), so this is not a recent addition.

So apparently you never noticed this Downloads folder in the Library and also never have deleted history if all that data is still there. Downloads show as history items under the main history, so if you inspect the history then you will also see links to files that you have downloaded.

The Downloads folder in the Library is present since Firefox 8 (2011), so this is not a recent addition. So apparently you never noticed this Downloads folder in the Library and also never have deleted history if all that data is still there. Downloads show as history items under the main history, so if you inspect the history then you will also see links to files that you have downloaded.
Musicalman7 0 izisombululo 21 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

I don't know why I post here because I'm so much out of my depth. I'm very intelligent, but 'willfully ignorant' I guess--- I don't want to be a programmer, just a slightly sophisticated user. I'm like the others here who, because I'd checked a box in the UI to 'not save downloads' had no idea they were being saved in history (whether one folder or two), not just in the downloads window. I stupidly assumed, as did others above, that since they were cleared from the window, they were totally cleared from the browser history. About a year ago, I changed HDD's, and probably cleared all history along the way. I didn't actually *notice* until the window started retaining all the downloads (I'd had set to clear all but the last 2 or 3 in previous versions, lately by using an about:config setting that I think @core-el helped with in about v. 19 or so), and then when all the downloads started *showing* in my history (where this dummy could actually see them!). That's all I'm saying. Maybe I'm too dumb to even be using Firefox, but I keep trying.

Cor-el said: "Downloads show as history items under the main history, so if you inspect the history then you will also see links to files that you have downloaded." Actually, now that I think about it, yes I did know that since early versions the links to downloads were saved in main history. That didn't bother me so long as I was able to, through the UI menu, choose to delete all downloads but *not* history upon exit, *and* to select the number of days to save the history. The *problem* arose when I was no longer able to 'automatically' remove the downloads from the window AND no longer able specify a time period to save history. That's what I'm wanting to see happen again. Probably there is a way to do all that in about:config, but I'm not clever enough to figure it out.

I don't know why I post here because I'm so much out of my depth. I'm very intelligent, but 'willfully ignorant' I guess--- I don't want to be a programmer, just a slightly sophisticated user. I'm like the others here who, because I'd checked a box in the UI to 'not save downloads' had no idea they were being saved in history (whether one folder or two), not just in the downloads window. I stupidly assumed, as did others above, that since they were cleared from the window, they were totally cleared from the browser history. About a year ago, I changed HDD's, and probably cleared all history along the way. I didn't actually *notice* until the window started retaining all the downloads (I'd had set to clear all but the last 2 or 3 in previous versions, lately by using an about:config setting that I think @core-el helped with in about v. 19 or so), and then when all the downloads started *showing* in my history (where this dummy could actually see them!). That's all I'm saying. Maybe I'm too dumb to even be using Firefox, but I keep trying. Cor-el said: "Downloads show as history items under the main history, so if you inspect the history then you will also see links to files that you have downloaded." Actually, now that I think about it, yes I did know that since early versions the links to downloads were saved in main history. That didn't bother me so long as I was able to, through the UI menu, choose to delete all downloads but *not* history upon exit, *and* to select the number of days to save the history. The *problem* arose when I was no longer able to 'automatically' remove the downloads from the window AND no longer able specify a time period to save history. That's what I'm wanting to see happen again. Probably there is a way to do all that in about:config, but I'm not clever enough to figure it out.

Okulungisiwe ngu Musicalman7

liamo777 2 izisombululo 24 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

The 3 answers from the 2 Moderator's above do not solve this issue. and as some of my fellow members have said it shows a lack of respect to all of us, who could be occupied doing joyful things on our laptops that rather than all this rubbish.....fixing Firefox problems which none of us are paid for, and when the Moderator's get with us and complain to Mozilla Firefox and refuse to post any replies on here, maybe,, maybe, Moz-Firefox will get better, I use FF17 and never let updates download&install themselves.....SLAINTE liamo777

The 3 answers from the 2 Moderator's above do not solve this issue. and as some of my fellow members have said it shows a lack of respect to all of us, who could be occupied doing joyful things on our laptops that rather than all this rubbish.....fixing Firefox problems which none of us are paid for, and when the Moderator's get with us and complain to Mozilla Firefox and refuse to post any replies on here, maybe,, maybe, Moz-Firefox will get better, I use FF17 and never let updates download&install themselves.....SLAINTE liamo777
crislevin 19 izisombululo 160 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

I really don't see the problem here, firefox's download manager has history stored since very beginning, all new download UI did, was to show a simple download button, with old download history integrated into "library".

Firefox didn't change anything in terms of saving download history. if you need to get rid of them, goto library and clear them.

If moving to chrome, puting all your private data in the hands of google assures you, I say, good luck!

I really don't see the problem here, firefox's download manager has history stored since very beginning, all new download UI did, was to show a simple download button, with old download history integrated into "library". Firefox didn't change anything in terms of saving download history. if you need to get rid of them, goto library and clear them. If moving to chrome, puting all your private data in the hands of google assures you, I say, good luck!

Umnikazi wombuzo

The problem is that Firefox was, at some stage, keeping two different download histories which meant that clearing the 'download manager' didn't mean you were actually clearing your download history. This was a stupid thing to do because naturally, users are going to assume that their download history is clear if the download manager is empty.

The problem is that Firefox was, at some stage, keeping two different download histories which meant that clearing the 'download manager' didn't mean you were actually clearing your download history. This was a stupid thing to do because naturally, users are going to assume that their download history is clear if the download manager is empty.
Musicalman7 0 izisombululo 21 izimpendulo
Kuphostiwe

@crislevin The problem is exactly what TheVoice and others have said, several times in several different ways. It's the fact that when a casual user, unfamiliar with the inner workings of Firefox, selects "remove downloads" he expects they'll be deleted/purged/removed, not just from visibility but from history, not surreptitiously saved ad infinitum in a location most casual users don't know is there. It's sort of like casual computer users assuming 'delete' really means 'delete' (which only the 'file folder label' is removed but the file remains intact until overwritten), only in this case, it's *all* still there, intact, just not where the user is aware of it.

This issue, as pointed out, was further complicated with the merging of the History & Download folders; even if one is aware of the downloads being stored in History, he is forced into an 'all or nothing' choice regarding saving History; the downloads cannot be removed from history (other than individually and manually, or via an extension) without removing all history.

However, I agree with you about switching to Chrome for the reason you state. I'd go back to IE or try some other browser before I'd do that.

@crislevin The problem is exactly what TheVoice and others have said, several times in several different ways. It's the fact that when a casual user, unfamiliar with the inner workings of Firefox, selects "remove downloads" he expects they'll be deleted/purged/removed, not just from visibility but from history, not surreptitiously saved ad infinitum in a location most casual users don't know is there. It's sort of like casual computer users assuming 'delete' really means 'delete' (which only the 'file folder label' is removed but the file remains intact until overwritten), only in this case, it's *all* still there, intact, just not where the user is aware of it. This issue, as pointed out, was further complicated with the merging of the History & Download folders; even if one is aware of the downloads being stored in History, he is forced into an 'all or nothing' choice regarding saving History; the downloads cannot be removed from history (other than individually and manually, or via an extension) without removing all history. However, I agree with you about switching to Chrome for the reason you state. I'd go back to IE or try some other browser before I'd do that.

Okulungisiwe ngu Musicalman7