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Mozilla rolls out private browsing in beta
Published: 2008-12-10

The Mozilla Foundation released the second beta of its Firefox 3.1 browser this week, adding a feature that allows the user to turn off the application's normal recording of their online activities.

The feature, known as private browsing, allows a user to command the program to ignore various digital bread crumbs. With the mode activated, a browser will not store the history of sites a user visits, memorize cookies or cache Web site content. The feature was a relatively last minute feature to version 3.1 of the program.

"It is very important to note that Private Browsing is not a tool to keep you anonymous from websites or your ISP, or for example protect you from all kinds of spyware applications which use sophisticated techniques to intercept your online traffic," Ehsan Akhgari, a Firefox developer, stated last month. "Private Browsing is only about making sure that Firefox doesn't store any data which can be used to trace your online activities, no more, no less."

Private browsing is not a new feature. Both Apple's Safari browser and Google's Chrome browser have the functionality. Microsoft announced that the coming Internet Explorer 8 will also include private browsing. While many uses for the technology exist, such as hiding Christmas shopping from your partner and not leaving information behind on public computers, many have argued that it just makes its easier to browse for pornography.

The Mozilla Foundation criticized that interpretation of the feature, pointing out that people who browse for information on sensitive medical conditions or search for a new job on a work computer also need the feature.

"Assuming that this is the only reason that users need private browsing trivializes the overall feature," the group stated.

Mozilla released the latest version of its browser, Firefox 3, in June.

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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