More Private Internet Browsing with Firefox and DuckDuckGo
These posts describe my digital privacy journey. Some decisions were mistakes in hindsight, but I want to show all the steps I took.
I switched from Google's Chrome browser and search engine to Firefox and DuckDuckGo.
A quick search on privacy advice sites shows that changing your default browser is one of the easiest steps you can take to improve your online privacy. It takes five minutes to make the changes and this only needs to be done once.
After downloading Firefox, I exported my bookmarks from Chrome and imported them into Firefox. I set Firefox as my default browser in my operating system and made DuckDuckGo my default search engine. I made some further tweaks and installed the uBlock Origin ad content blocker extension.
I did all of the above on my children's laptops with them and explained that these simple changes should help minimise the amount of online tracking and and targeted advertising on their laptops.
Well...none, really! There was a short period of getting used to the new browser and search engine, but, overall, this transition was smooth, for me and for my children.
Some friends who have tried this say that the search results on DuckDuckGo are less precise than Google's, but I have not noticed this myself.
Data-hungry companies like Google are able to track people's online lives by ensuring their software is installed on our devices by default. I can't really give a good reason why I didn't make these simple changes before, other than apathy ("everyone uses Chrome") and an uncritical acceptance of the default settings that came with my operating system.
Current use and looking ahead
I later learned more about Firefox hardening and made those changes in the browser's settings.
Eventually, I discovered the Whoogle search engine, and after days of befuddled head-scratching and tinkering with Docker on a Raspberry Pi mini computer, I now have a working instance of Whoogle set up for our home, which impressed my kids. I will write a more detailed post about Whoogle.
I now use a range of browsers daily—Firefox, Brave, Chrome and Microsoft Edge—and use each for specific logins and accounts. I tried LibreWolf for a while, but kept forgetting to update. I use Mull on my phone.
If you want to browse more privately, you can:
install Firefox and make it your default browser
change your default search engine1 to DuckDuckGo
switch these Firefox settings to block tracking: Mullvad guide
add the uBlock Origin extension to Firefox2
That should take 5 minutes once, and then your online life should be a lot more private by default.
For more detailed information about hardening Firefox, see Techlore's video on this topic.
Hosting your own instance of Whoogle is a bit more involved, but if you have the time and interest, see their Github page.
Discussion this post on Reddit
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To change your default search engine in Firefox, go to Settings - Search - Default Search Engine and select DuckDuckGo.↩
To add the uBlock Origin adblocking extension in Firefox, click Settings - Extensions & Themes (bottom left) - Extensions and search for uBlockOrigin, click the blue "Add to Firefox" button and enable it.↩