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mercredi 28 mars 2018 (2 posts)

There was some noise recently about the massive amount of data gathered by Cambridge Analytica from Facebook users. While I don't use Facebook myself, I do use Google and other services which are known to gather a massive amount of data, and I obviously know a lot of people using those services. I also saw some posts or tweet threads about the data collection those services do.

Mozilla recently released a Firefox extension to help users confine Facebook data collection. This addon is actually based on the containers technology Mozilla develops since few years. It started as an experimental feature in Nightly, then as a test pilot experiment, and finally evolved into a fully featured extension called Multi-Account containers. A somehow restricted version of this is even included directly in Firefox but you don't have the configuration window without the extension and you need to configure it manually with about:config.

Basically, containers separate storage (cookies, site preference, login session etc.) and enable an user to isolate various aspect of their online life by only staying logged to specific websites in their respective containers. In a way it looks like having a separate Firefox profile per website, but it's a lot more usable daily.

I use this extension massively, in order to isolate each website. I have one container for Google, one for Twitter, one for banking etc. If I used Facebook, I would have a Facebook container, if I used gmail I would have a gmail container. Then, my day to day browsing is done using the “default” container, where I'm not logged to any website, so tracking is minimal (I also use uBlock origin to reduce ads and tracking).

That way, my online life is compartmentalized/containerized and Google doesn't always associate my web searches to my account (I actually usually use DuckDuckGo but sometimes I do a Google search), Twitter only knows about the tweets I read and I don't expose all my cookies to every website.

The extension and support pages are really helpful to get started, but basically:

  • you install the extension from the extension page
  • you create new containers for the various websites you want using the menu
  • when you open a new tab you can opt to open it in a selected container by long pressing on the + button
  • the current container is shown in the URL bar and with a color underline on the current tab
  • it's also optionally possible to assign a website to a container (for example, always open facebook.com in the Facebook container), which can help restricting data exposure but might prevent you browsing that site unidentified

When you're inside the container and you want to follow a link, you can get out of the container by right clicking on the link, select “Open link in new container tab” then select “no container”. That way Facebook won't follow you on that website and you'll start fresh (after the redirection).

As far as I can tell it's not yet possible to have disposable containers (which would be trashed after you close the tab) but a feature request is open and another extension seems to exist.

In the end, and while the isolation from that extension is not perfect, I really suggest Firefox users to give it a try. In my opinion it's really easy to use and really helps maintaining healthy barriers on one's online presence. I don't know about an equivalent system for Chromium (or Safari) users but if you know about it feel free to point it to me.

A French version of this post is also available here just in case.

Yves-Alexis@20:44:03 (Debian)

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