Mobility

Concerned about browsing privacy? Here's how to install Firefox Focus

If you're looking for an Android browser that makes blocking trackers and clearing your history, look no further than Firefox Focus. Here's how to install it.

focushero.jpg
Image: Jack Wallen

Back in 2016, Firefox created a new privacy-centric browser for iOS, called Firefox Focus. After a year, that browser has finally arrived on the Android platform. Why does this matter?

Privacy.

What does Firefox Focus have to offer your Android experience? This particular browser's feature set includes:

  • Block ad and other types of trackers
  • Quick browser session history wiping with a single tap
  • Pared down interface for ease of use
  • Enable/disable ad tracking
  • Set as default browser

The point of Firefox Focus is to make browsing privately easier. To that end, Mozilla has succeeded splendidly; focus is one of the easier to use privacy-centric browsers I've come across in some time. If you're looking for a minimal browser, that will aid in the task of blocking trackers and clearing your history, Focus is exactly what you want.

Let's install this browser and see how this simple browser is used.

Installation

The installation of Firefox Focus is quite simple. Here are the steps:

  1. Open up the Google Play Store in your browser
  2. Search for Firefox Focus
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Mozilla
  4. Tap Install
  5. Allow the installation to complete

That's all there is. You should now see the launcher for the browser on your home screen or you App Drawer (or both). Tap the launcher to open the app.

Usage

When you open the browser, you will be greeted by a very minimal interface. Type either a search string or a URL into the single navigation window (Figure A) and tap the Go button on your keyboard.

Figure A

Figure A

The main interface for Firefox Focus.

If you entered a URL, you will be transported to the site. When the site finally loads (it's a bit slower than a non-blocking browser), you can tap the menu button (three vertical dots in the upper right corner) and see how many trackers were blocked (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Trackers blocked.

The one caveat to the tracker blocking, is that you cannot gain access to view what trackers were blocked. That's fine for the vast majority of users, but some might be curious. Either way, you have quick access to see how many trackers were blocked. From that same drop-down, you can disable blocking by tapping the slider. This will have the effect of reloading the same site, without blocking any trackers.

Options

If you happen to search for something through Focus, you will find that the default search engine is Yahoo. If you want to change that, tap the menu button and then tap Yahoo (under Search - Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Changing the default search engine.

You can select from the following search sites:

  • Yahoo
  • Google
  • Amazon.com
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Twitter
  • Wikipedia

For those that are really concerned about privacy (which you are, if you're using Firefox Focus), I would recommend opting for DuckDuckGo.

From within the Settings, you can also enable/disable:

  • Block ad trackers
  • Block analytical trackers
  • Block social trackers
  • Block other content trackers

I wouldn't recommend enabling the blocking of other content trackers, as that can break some functionality on sites (especially sites that rely on video). If you want to make Focus the default browser, scroll down a bit further in the Settings and tap to enable (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Setting Focus as your default browser.

Clean up

After you open up a site, you'll notice a trash can icon in the bottom right corner of the window. When you're done with that browsing session, tap that icon and all history will be erased. You will then be returned to the Focus main window, where you can start anew. That's how simple it is to clear your tracks. Not only have no ad trackers been able to do their thing, you've left no trace behind—all with a single tap.

Better, safer browsing

Firefox Focus might not be the fastest browser on the market, nor is it feature-rich; however, it does a great job of keeping you tucked away from trackers and makes clearing your history very simple. Give Focus a go and see if doesn't quickly become your default browser on Android.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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