Using the Clear Private Data Feature


Firefox stores a variety of information while you browse, such as your browsing history, your download history, and the online forms you fill out. Each piece of information is stored to make your browsing experience more convenient. Download history, for example, is maintained so that you can easily find and open the files you download. Although this kind of memory is convenient, you will probably want to clear it frequently if other people use your computer (such as family members or co-workers) so that no one can invade your privacy.

The easiest way to clear stored information in Firefox is by using the Clear Private Data mechanism. The feature is simple but powerful. First, you specify which kinds of information you want to clear regularly, such as browsing history and saved form entries. Then, every time you use the feature — which I discuss in the following steps — that type of information is cleared, but other types (such as download history, in this case) remain intact.

To configure and use the Clear Private Data feature, follow these steps:

  1. The Clear Private Data window appears, as shown in Figure 14-1. This window contains a list of information that Firefox stores (for example, "Saved Form Information"). See "Working One-on-One with Your Data" later in this chapter for specific coverage of each type of information.

    image from book
    Figure 14-1: The Clear Private Data window lets you specify any combination of information to clear and then wipes it out on a regular basis.

    Tip 

    If you're on Windows, you can press Ctrl+Shift+Del to open the Clear Private Data window quickly. (There's no keyboard shortcut for Macintosh users.)

  2. Select each type of information you want to clear and make sure all other types are deselected.

    If a particular option is grayed out (and thus not selectable), Firefox currently has no information of that type stored about you, and you don't need to clear it.

    TECHNICAL STUFF 

    I discuss the first six types of information listed in this window in the section "Working One-on-One with Your Data," later in this chapter. The seventh, Authenticated Sessions, is technical jargon that refers to information that Firefox remembers for a particular session (a session begins when you start Firefox and ends when you close it), such as your Amazon.com shopping cart items. Although Firefox automatically forgets this information when a Firefox session ends, you might want to clear it manually (without having to shut down Firefox) when you walk away from your computer (especially if others share your computer), which is why this option is available.

  3. Click Clear Private Data Now to clear the information you indicated.

    Warning 

    This action is permanent and irreversible, and you will not have a chance to confirm the decision after you click the button.

The Clear Private Data feature clears only the information Firefox has already stored. New information continues to accrue unless you tell Firefox to stop storing it altogether. I outline how to do this for each type of information in "Working One-on-One with Your Data" later in this chapter.

Bypassing the Clear Private Data window

At the bottom of the Clear Private Data window is a mysterious check box that says Ask Me Before Clearing Private Data, and it is selected by default. If you deselect this option, choosing Toolsimage from book Clear Private Data (or pressing Ctrl+Shift+Del on Windows; there is no Mac shortcut) clears whichever types of information you had previously selected immediately and silently. In other words, you won't be offered the Clear Private Data window or any other confirmation. This option is intended for people who clear their information regularly and want to avoid the window every time.

Warning 

The Clear Private Data window remembers your decision regarding the Ask Me Before Clearing Private Data check box even if you press the Cancel button. Thus, you should make sure the check box is selected or deselected, depending on your preference, when you close the window.

If you decide to bypass the window and later want to turn it back on or change exactly which tracks are cleared each time, you can still access the Clear Private Data settings window from the Firefox Options window:

  1. Click the Privacy icon at the top of the window.

  2. Click the Settings button at the bottom of the window to open the Clear Private Data settings window.

  3. Select the Ask Me Before Clearing Private Data check box.

  4. Click OK.

  5. Click OK to close the Options window.

Tip 

Can't remember whether you set the preference to bypass the Clear Private Data window? Well, you certainly don't want to try the option and see whether or not the window appears — because if it doesn't, your information just got cleared! Instead, open the Tools menu and examine the Clear Private Data option. If it ends in an ellipsis, you have not bypassed the confirmation window, and it appears when you use the feature. If it doesn't the window is bypassed. Figures 14-2 and 14-3 show the difference.

image from book
Figure 14-2: If the Clear Private Data menu item ends with an ellipsis, you haven't bypassed the confirmation window

image from book
Figure 14-3: but if it doesn't, the window has been bypassed, so beware!

Clearing private data when Firefox closes

With the window-bypassing feature I describe in the preceding section, clearing your tracks in Firefox is as easy as choosing a menu item or (on Windows) pressing a few keys. But if you're very privacy-conscious, that might not be enough. After all, as easy as it is to clear your data, you still have to remember to do it. What if you forget?

If you want, you can tell Firefox to clear some or all of your private data each time it shuts down:

  1. Click the Privacy icon at the top of the window.

  2. Click the Settings button at the bottom of the window to open the Clear Private Data settings window.

  3. Select the types of information that Firefox should clear on shutdown, and ensure that all other types are deselected.

  4. Select the Clear Private Data When Closing Firefox check box.

  5. Click OK.

  6. Click OK to close the Options window.




Firefox For Dummies
Firefox For Dummies
ISBN: 0471748994
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 157
Authors: Blake Ross

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