Last week, Mozilla said that its Firefox browser would block the third party trackers for everyone by default and yesterday, Firefox announced a new product that could give Firefox customers even more privacy on the web: the Firefox Private Network, which claims to be “an encrypted, secure path to the web” — basically, a Firefox-made VPN (though Mozilla never calls it one).
The Mozilla Firefox Private Network seems like that it could be useful, but it has its limits. It’s a Firefox browser-based VPN, so it won’t mask anything that you’re doing on the internet outside of Firefox — you need to install a dedicated VPN app if you want to defend more of your internet traffic. Mozilla Firefox recommends using Firefox Private Network if you want to have an encrypted connection or if you just want to better hide from ad trackers or while using Mozilla Firefox on a public Wi-Fi network.
If you want to try the Mozilla Private Network, which is free of charge, but in beta, you’ll have to be US-based, using Firefox on your laptop or desktop, and logged into your Firefox account. If you are, install the Mozilla Private Network, and click on the icon that shows up in your toolbar, and a small menu will drop down where you can switch the VPN on or off.
In a brief test, I notice that my download speed was 17 Mbps slower with the button flipped on, but could not tell the difference while browsing. The Mozilla Firefox Private Network changes my IP, which should obstruct third-party trackers; but since it only moved my location out to a nearby community, websites might have still been able to serve me local ads. Not only this but also know that if you want to appear to browse from somewhere you aren’t — or just want to watch episodes of veranda House before they sky in the US — you’ll need to use another VPN service.
Mozilla says that Firefox Private Network will be “free for a restricted time,” suggesting it may become a paid service in the future — which isn’t exactly a surprise. Last October, Firefox displayed an ad for a subscription to ProtonVPN to a small group of Firefox users, signifying Mozilla may have been gauging interest in providing its VPN. Firefox CEO recently said that the Mozilla intends to recommend a paid subscription service for premium features in October and that bandwidth for a VPN service could be one of them.
The Mozilla Firefox Private Network is the first project from Firefox’s refreshed Test Pilot program. The software used to be focused on letting users try more experimental features like vertical tabs, but Mozilla says the Test Pilot software will now be focused on “new, privacy-centric products” that are “now one step shy of general public discharge.” Mozilla hasn’t given any indication of what might come next.