It never ceases to amaze me what we tolerate as accepted online behavior by companies and websites. Case in point, tracking data within URLs. Click around the internet long enough and you’ll see a string of data, attached to the end of a URL that looks something like this:
The breakdown of the above code looks like this:
- utm_source identifies the source of the traffic.
- utm_medium identifies the type of marketing channel.
- utm_campaign identifies the campaign.
The goal of the above tracking information is to allow a company to keep tabs on how many users visited their website from Twitter (aka X).
There are far worse tracking data embedded in URLs that are used to inject data into your web browser’s history (via cookies or fingerprinting). In fact, you’d be shocked at what goes into keeping tabs on your browser usage and history. It’s a veritable case of the more you know the more afraid you grow.
I’m not here to argue that you close your browser and never open it again. That’s a hard sell in this day and age. I do want to draw your attention to a web browser that goes out of its way to protect your privacy and security. That browser is called LibreWolf.
LibreWolf is a fork of Firefox with a lot of work added to help safeguard your privacy. It’s important to note that Firefox is already one of the more secure web browsers on the market, so LibreWorlf simply dials that aspect up to 11.
Here’s what LibreWolf does:
- Removes embedded server links and other “phoning home” functionality.
- Deletes all cookies and websites when closed.
- Includes only search engines that respect privacy (such as DuckDuckGo).
- uBlockOrigin is installed by default with custom filter lists and Tracking Protection set to Strict Mode.
- Strips all tracking elements from URLs.
- Enables a feature called dFPI (aka Total Cookie Protection).
- Enables RFP anti-fingerprinting.
- Displays user language as en-US to websites.
- Disables WebGL (to further protect against fingerprinting).
- Prevents access to OS-level location services.
- Limits ICE candidate generation to a single interface.
- Forces DNS and WebRTC inside a proxy when in use.
- Trims cross-origin referrers.
- Disables link prefetching.
- Disables speculative connections.
- Disables disk cache and clears temporary files when closed.
- Disables form autofill.
- Disables search and form history.
That’s a lot going on. Suffice it to say, LibreWolf works very hard to keep privacy in check.
I spent some time with this browser and was quite impressed with the results. For example, I visited site after site, just to see if I could catch tracking information in a URL — and not once did it happen. That’s impressive, considering even my default browser (which is configured to prevent this very thing) every once in a while gets caught with tracking data in a URL.
Essentially, LibreWolf is like running a permanent Private Mode browser that does everything it says it does.
The only caveat I’ve run into with LibreWolf is that it does “break” some websites. But any website that requires the use of tracking data, cookies, and fingerprinting will be broken with any browser that enforces privacy protection on this level. To that end, you could think of LibreWolf as the web browser you use for special purposes (such as banking).
Let me show you how to install LibreWolf.
How to install LibreWolf
What you’ll need:
LibreWolf is available for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. To install on MacOS and Windows, you simply download the correct installer and run it as you would with any app installation. One thing to keep in mind is that LibreWolf doesn’t do auto-updates on MacOS or Windows, so you’ll have to manually update the browser. I’m going to demonstrate the installation on Ubuntu Budgie because the process is a bit more complicated. If your Linux distribution of choice is based on a version of the OS, you’ll want to check the LibreWolf instructions for each (such as Fedora or Arch).
sudo apt-get install wget gnupg lsb-release apt-transport-https ca-certificates -y
distro=$(if echo " una bookworm vanessa focal jammy bullseye vera uma " | grep -q " $(lsb_release -sc) "; then lsb_release -sc; else echo focal; fi)
wget -O- https://deb.librewolf.net/keyring.gpg | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /usr/share/keyrings/librewolf.gpg
sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/librewolf.sources << EOF > /dev/null Types: deb URIs: https://deb.librewolf.net Suites: $distro Components: main Architectures: amd64 Signed-By: /usr/share/keyrings/librewolf.gpg EOF
sudo apt update sudo apt install librewolf -y
Once the installation is complete, you’ll find LibreWolf in your desktop menu. Open the browser and you’ll see it works as any web browser should, only with considerably more privacy protection under the hood.
And that’s all there is to LibreWolf. If you are serious about privacy, I would recommend you give this Firefox fork a go.