Can I automatically log (via email) my internet browsing?
February 13, 2014 1:00 AM   Subscribe

I browse the internet using Firefox Portable (run from a USB) on whichever PCs I'm using (at work, at the public library, on friends' PCs, etc.), and Firefox on my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy S3). Is there some way (e.g. software I can install) that I can have every URL I visit automatically sent to my email address?

I have my two versions of Firefox set to sync, so that whatever I browse on my phone will appear in my history when I'm on a PC, and vice-versa.

But I would like to have each URL logged and emailed to me (preferably in a daily digest rather than individually) as another chronological form of my browsing history. For my purposes, this form of logging would be easier to manage.

It's also important that the log records URLs I visit in Private mode - these don't appear in my history, obviously, but I would like a record of them along with every other URL I visit.

I don't mind spending a little bit of money if the product or service is worth it.
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like you want to monitor someone else to be honest.

Use Firefox Sync to store your history, then you can view that history from within Firefox. How to get it into e-mail format, I don't know. You could probably parse the sqlite database that stores the urls and sort by time.

You won't get urls in private mode at all.
posted by devnull at 1:26 AM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I know it sounds like that; I tried to think of a way to word it to make it clear that that isn't my intention, but here we are.

If anyone has a solution but distrusts how I will apply it, MeMail me and I will try to allay your concerns.

I am wanting a product or service that enables me to self-monitor, or that monitors me and emails me the results.

If I only used a single ISP, I would contact them and ask if they could handle my request. But that's not the case in the age of wifi and portable browsers.

But I'm sure at that level (i.e. at the ISP level) they are privy to every URL I visit, whether or not private browsing is enabled. So I'm hoping there's some way I can achieve the same results.

I don't have the skills for solutions that involve me parsing databases.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 1:53 AM on February 13, 2014

It's also important that the log records URLs I visit in Private mode - these don't appear in my history, obviously, but I would like a record of them along with every other URL I visit.

Firefox doesn't actually record that information, so if you want that you'll need to get it a different way - maybe run a local proxy server?
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 AM on February 13, 2014

Yeah - the most feature-complete way to do this would probably be to set up a DNS/proxy server, and point both your browsers to it, then have a server-side script that emails you daily with a list of URLs visited, but I suspect that if you don't want to parse databases you also don't want to set up and run your own server.

My instinct right now is that the easiest way to do this would be a combination of Firefox Sync and a tool to parse the SQLite file generated by Firefox on your USB drive, as devnull says. There are applications that read the sqlite database, such as Mozilla History View or the SQL Manager add-on, and can package and present it in a more readable format. However, it wouldn't automatically email the info to you, it would involve at least some dealing with databases (or at least their outputs), and it would not as standard report private browsing.

So, supplementary question: for what purpose are you using private browsing? The main goal of that is to have your browsing _not_ show up in your browser history - as you correctly surmise, the ISP you are using is going to be able to log and record your visit to that URL, but since you use different ISPs at different times that doesn't help you. If you don't share your browser (and the fact that you are using mobile Firefox and a phone browser suggests that you do not), what is your goal with private browsing? To prevent anyone who gets hold of your USB drive/phone from seeing your complete browser history?

A better-fitting solution with no technical complexity might be the browser extension of Rescuetime, which is basically designed for self-monitoring of Internet usage. The full, application-based version can certainly send you a weekly email summary of the sites you have visited, which I think is tweakable to be daily in the premium version, and it also captures private browsing data IIRC, to avoid stealth procrastination (because it works at the level of the data your browser is requesting, rather than the SQLite file generated by Firefox). However, you'd have to change your browser habits on mobile - it doesn't support Firefox for Android.

Also, the full version is designed to be installed on a PC or Mac - from your description, you don't seem to have a home PC. Is that correct? If not, you can still use the Firefox browser add-on, which I imagine would work on Portable Firefox, and would give you a rundown of all the sites you visited.

Neither of these approaches would be a suited to the surveillance of an unwitting subject, which from the information you give is not an issue. There are ways to harvest information covertly, but you are saying that is not your intention and I'm taking you at your word.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:46 AM on February 13, 2014

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