Firefox for Android Adds Google Suggestions with Built-in Privacy
Mozilla made the suggestions optional and minimizes the data sent to Google
Search suggestions in the browser are great, they speed up your searches and may even lead you in a direction you wouldn't have taken without them. However, they do pose a privacy issue, especially when the suggestions are baked into the address bar.It's not a huge issue and it's not a privacy risk that much bigger than using any search engine.
But it's something that can be minimized, which is what Firefox for Android has managed in the latest version.
For the most part, what you type in the address bar of a browser is what you want to search for. That's particularly true for browsers that don't have a dedicated search box, like Chrome or Firefox for Android.
But if you're typing a URL, with no intention of reaching a website, suggestions mean that what you type still ends up with a search engine, Google or whatever else you use by default.
Firefox for Android has taken several steps to minimize this. For one, the search suggestions are completely optional and users get a clear notification on first use.
Suggestions are a new feature in Firefox for Android 18 that has just been released. Firefox 18 for Android is now available in the Play Store, to go along with the release of the desktop version.
Firefox is also smart about the suggestions and won't send any data to Google if what you're typing looks like a URL, i.e. it starts with a www or has a ":" or a "/" inside. Mozilla has always strived to design its browsers with privacy in mind and the mobile version doesn't change that.
Apart from smarter suggestions, the latest Firefox for Android also comes with Safe Browsing, the technology that aims to steer you away from malicious or potentially dangerous sites.
With malware on Android becoming a real risk, the move should be welcomed by Android users. Granted, there isn't that much malware that targets Android browsers, let alone Firefox, most comes from infected apps, but it doesn't hurt to be careful.