I just made the transition from Firefox 2 to Firefox 3 and my initial reaction was, well, underwhelmed. On further use though I realized that there is a horrid privacy issue that has existed for some time. It was the Awesomebar that brought this to light, which should be renamed by the way to the annoying bar. Anything that absorbs that much of my screen real estate and is that intrusive should have an easy way to turn it off.
That is not the privacy concern though. What really caught my attention was the fact that I have had Firefox set to not remember a thing. No history, flush the cache, cookies ... everything when I close the browser. If I want to revisit a site at a later date I bookmark it. Now with the advent of the Awesomebar I discovered that when I started typing in a URL that even though my history tab is empty that the Awesomebar was still pulling up the sites I had visited even though I had explicitly told it not to. What was more shocking was that I was seeing websites show up in there that I had visited prior to installing Firefox 3.
What in the world? There is a reason I dont want my browser to cache this stuff. I do not want anyone who walks up to my computer to be able to take a look at where I have been or what I have been researching. For one thing when I am at work I'm not really supposed to be going to sites like LXer or Groklaw, well, actually I can go there, I'm just not supposed to spend as much time as I do there. Or say I run across an interesting bit of news that sends me off on a knowledge hunt about the how or what of something. I realize that any of the IT folks who monitor network traffic could figure it out really quick, that's not my point though. My browser should NOT be caching this information against my express wishes.
Anyone, and I mean anyone with a little knowledge can walk up to your system and pull your history regardless of what you have told the browser to flush or not retain. This is not just breach of privacy, it's a breach of trust. I find it ethically questionable and morally reprehensible. So thanks to the Awesomebar for bringing this to my attention however my reaction after I sat down and thought about it for a few minutes was to start inventing a few new vulgar words to direct at the Firefox team.
Make no mistakes, this is not another undocumented "feature". This is a breach of public trust. Your browser is tracking EXACTLY what you have told it not to track or retain. I love using Firefox, but this revelation has set me to taking a serious look at other broswers for personal use, as should anyone who is concerned with personal privacy.
This is my call to Firefox. Fix it, and fix it now.