Android Firefox loses all user data, including bookmarks, passwords, tabs when upgraded
I recently made the (apparently) foolish decision to allow Firefox to upgrade using the Play store App. This is on a Galaxy S8 running Android 9. Firefox 109.2.0 was installed and upon opening the App, all of my user data was gone. No tabs, bookmarks, saved passwords or other settings were available.
This is unacceptable. There appears to be no way to recover the lost information, but I am opening this case to determine if there is a recovery strategy. Of course, I don't really want to run version 109.2.0 and will revert back to something that works without losing data as soon as the missing data is recovered.
I'm not sure why the Firefox Devs seem to think that user data is a disposable and unimportant item, but I would encourage a full review of their processes to determine why they have failed so badly.
In the meantime, if anyone has a method that might be used to recover the old profile data, that would be very helpful.
Some notes: 1) No, I don't use Sync (or whatever they are calling it today) because it is a security risk in my view to have any third party including Mozilla know my bookmarks. 2) about:profiles does not work. 3) I'm not sure what version was installed earlier, but AdBlock Plus was working fine, so it may have been a year or more since my last update.
Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
All Replies (14)
Were you updating from Firefox for Android version 68? Does the design of Firefox for Android look very different now that you have updated?
Modified by Paul
Thanks for your response.
Yes, the user interface does look somewhat different. However, I can't say for certain what version I was running previously. Is there a good way to tell? Ideally, I'd like to revert to that version, since the new code seems to be buggy and loses user data.
That suggests that you may have been using a very old version of Firefox for Android that has not been supported for a few years now. What has also not been supported for over a year has been the automatic importing of bookmarks and other data.
Even if you did sideload an old copy of the old version (which is not recommended), it would not help recover your data.
Thanks for the information. I can hardly say this is good news.
What can you tell me about the format of data storage for profiles on Android? Specifically, where are they kept and how are they managed. Is there any documentation about this stuff? Even though you consider the data gone, I'd like to at least try and recover something.
While I am not suggesting that you support the gross negligence and complete lack of competence that allows the so-called developers of Firefox to destroy user data with no warning whatsoever.
While destruction of user data is never acceptable, it becomes malicious when it is an unavoidable consequence of upgrading and the user is not warned before the upgrade proceeds.
As I said, I don't know your position on this action by the Mozilla Foundation, but it does seems that your comment indicates this is an issue that is known to Firefox insiders and is thus a deliberate act to destroy data.
I wonder if I have a cause of action for the intentional tort of destroying property in my jurisdiction. Or perhaps, we need to warn everyone about this using a web site set up for this purpose.
This is not something that was done by the Mozilla Foundation. Firefox for Android is developed by the Mozilla Corporation.
It is always a good idea to update any app, system or platform as and when updates are available. Putting it off for a few years leaves devices and user data open to security and stability risks. If you had updated when the update was available your data would have moved across to the new version.
The Firefox for Android profile where your data is, is stored in a part of the Android file system accessible if you "root" your device. This is strongly not recommended as it increases security and stability risks and may lead to your data being erased.
Thanks again for the additional information regarding the location of the files. I will probably go ahead and 'root' the device to see what, if anything can be recovered.
As to continuous upgrade cycles, blaming the user instead of the actual persons who wrote the bad code that destroyed data is a cop-out. I'm a little surprised that you who shift blame in this way.
I find that in most cases it is highly inadvisable to upgrade any software continuously. This is for several reasons:
1) New versions are usually unstable and poorly tested - this is especially true for Firefox, which broke many extensions users depended on and apparently continues to randomly destroy user data and otherwise inconvenience users due to what can only be described as massive incompetence of the part of the so-called 'developers'. Any coder worth the air they breathe should be able to backup, then migrate user data with no difficulty. I've been doing that for nearly 45 years. User data is inviolate and should *never* be lost by the action of a program without explicit user consent to do so. Of course, bugs happen, but they should be fixed immediately upon discovery. 2) New versions introduce dependency issues, where one has to upgrade dependencies, which in turn , break other components. 3) If one values stability and reliability ove eye-candy and dubiously engineered new features, new releases are often unneeded. 4) In particular to browsers, unless one uses Firefox for browsing unsafe sites, most security issues are really overblown. The risks can be mitigated further by using extensions like NoScript or UBlocker and also Adblock Plus to prevent undesired code from running locally. I have been using browsers for quite some time and have never seen a compromise of my systems as a result of browser operation.
All that said, for the average 'stupid' user, who knows little to nothing about threat mitigation, then continuous updates might be a good idea. Of course, these are the same people who use Windows and love to have their work in progress erased by Microsoft updates.
Also, thanks for the correction regarding the Mozilla Foundation vs. Mozilla Corporation. It should be easier to hold a corporation accountable for negligence and intentional destruction of property than a foundation.
So, my next step is to root my device to try and locate the data that is hopefully just inaccessible by the new Firefox version.
One thing you have not really addressed is the reason why all user data was lost. Is it simply that the new code could not recognize the old 'profile' and thus replaced it? Or something more subtle? I looked around in Bugzilla and saw nothing publicly visible that made this issue clear. I wrote a new bug, so we will see if more data is forthcoming.
After trying data recovery, I will remove Firefox 109.x and install 68.11.0, which appears to be the last non-broken version. I know that completely uninstalling Firefox 109 is likely to erase any user data that might be remaining, so I can't do the uninstall until my recovery efforts are completed. I have killed the Firefox process and all of its sub-components, so hopefully no further changes will be made to the file system.
Finally, I need to figure out how to proceed to inform as many people as possible to NOT upgrade to any new Firefox versions unless they don't care about any of their data. The publicity of a tort action might be one way, or just an informative website.. Either way, people need to be warned about the dangers inherent in new Firefox releases.
To address many of your points:
I do not understand the reference to "bad code". During the time that you have decided not to update your device, the code to supported updates from the old version was removed. This was done after over a year of the older version not being supported and after a period when many people updated without a problem.
New versions of Firefox are well tested with Nightly and Beta versions available for the many people who help test pre-Release versions of Firefox. These are available from the Google Play store.
Your data was lost because you left it over two years to update Firefox for Android.
Modified by Paul
Blaming the user for mistakes made during development is a sign of poor design controls. Often, this means the so-called developers are really inexperienced coders who don;t understand that their job is to produce a useful tool or product. That's the problem with Firefox. The show is being run by people who have no idea of good development practice.
The best practice for removing a feature is to: 1) inform the user community that the change is being made; and 2) warn the user if they are using any feature that is being removed at the moment just prior to irrevocable action, giving them an option not to proceed; and 3) confirm that the user intends to proceed, listing in detail all of the possible negative effects; and 4) after the action is confirmed, make a copy of the user's configuration and data so that a roll-back can be done if the new version that deleted the feature is unacceptable for some reason.
In this case, the feature that was removed was the preservation of user data from older versions of Firefox. Since a competent developer would know that some users may not upgrade frequently, plans should have been put in place to preserve user data from every shipped version of Firefox on Android, no matter how old. If, for some reason, this was too hard for the so-called developer, then upgrades from versions where data could be lost should be declined or require some kind of extraordinary user input to a prompt that said "ALL OF YOUR BOOKMARKS, PASSWORD and TABS WILL BE LOST FOREVER IF YOU UPGRADE. Enter 'Yes' to proceed with erasing all of your data".
In all upgrade scenarios, provisions for a roll-back should be made so that a user may recover from a failed upgrade or an unusable new version.
I don't understand your belief that the user is somehow to blame in this situation and that the user "should have known" that their data would be lost. That, my friend, is CYA talk. I used to work for a guy who would fire, on the spot, any developer who started a failure analysis with "it is the user's fault". I once thought that a little harsh, but I have come to realize that blaming the user/customer is a sure sign of incompetence.
Firefox developers are to blame for the willful destruction of user data because they, according to you, took affirmative action to guarantee that loss. That becomes 'gross negligence' under the law of torts.
Please try to understand that not every user of a tool, such as Firefox is going to be as involved as you apparently are in the day to day decisions that affect users. You need to 'put yourself in their shoes' and understand that a good tool protects users from making errors that will result in loss of data, especially in those cases where data loss would not be anticipated.
The people who answer questions here, for the most part, are other users volunteering their time (like me), not Mozilla employees or developers. If you want to leave feedback for developers, you can go to the Firefox Help menu and select either Share ideas and feedback… or Submit feedback…, depending on your Firefox version. Alternatively, you can use this link. Your feedback gets collected by a team of people who read it and gather data about the most common issues.
Thank you for your contributions and help to the user community for Firefox. I recognize that you are not responsible for the actions of the so-call 'developers', but was hoping you might express concern about the loss of data.
I suspect that leaving feedback for the so-called 'developers' would be a waste of time. if the internal controls are insufficient to prevent critical damage to user data, then it is very unlikely that there any procedures to act on user feedback. It is apparent that Firefox development is out of control. It would be interesting to know why, but at the end of the day it does not really matter. Either they will fix their internal problems with lack of development control or they won't. If they don't, then Firefox will continue on its downward trajectory, losing users every month to other, more functional browsers. That would be too bad, because I've personally supported and used Firefox for more than 20 years, even before it was called Firefox.
All I care about is informing others that if a user does an update to Firefox, it is likely they will lose all of their data. Informing users of the risks of accepting Firefox updates should be done by Firefox, but since they don't care, others will have to step in.
Thank you for your feedback.
Hi Paul, Thank you for your contributions and help to the user community for Firefox. I recognize that you are not responsible for the actions of the so-call 'developers', but was hoping you might express concern about the loss of data. I suspect that leaving feedback for the so-called 'developers' would be a waste of time. if the internal controls are insufficient to prevent critical damage to user data, then it is very unlikely that there any procedures to act on user feedback. It is apparent that Firefox development is out of control. It would be interesting to know why, but at the end of the day it does not really matter. Either they will fix their internal problems with lack of development control or they won't. If they don't, then Firefox will continue on its downward trajectory, losing users every month to other, more functional browsers. That would be too bad, because I've personally supported and used Firefox for more than 20 years, even before it was called Firefox. All I care about is informing others that if a user does an update to Firefox, it is likely they will lose all of their data. Informing users of the risks of accepting Firefox updates should be done by Firefox, but since they don't care, others will have to step in. Dale
It seems you failed dale, I have just lost ALL of my data after updating "by accident" around 40 mins ago! NO WARNING, not even the reviews I checked on play store mentioned losing data! (kinda Google's fault aswell there) NO BACK UP CREATED DURING UPDATE!!
I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU DALE! THE DEVELOPERS OF THIS APP ARE INCOMPETANT, LACKING ANY PROFESSIONALISM AND JUST IGNORANT!
You are CORRECT with every single point you made in this thread! Paul is clearly not a developer as he does not understand these basic principles that we do. If anything your points are compounded by the fact this has happened between updates, both to you me and all the others I've since found this happened to!! THIS is the very reason many of us developers DO NOT in fact like to "update" software that is in place and works as it should!
I cannot find any roll back data etc in the app! JUST THE KICK IN THE TEETH OF "use our synch account to backup all your details, you'll never lose your tabs again!"... Talk about salt in the wound.
I am now looking to do an adb backup / shell in the hopes the profiles dB hasn't been destroyed completely! I know my passwords are gone though! As you say this isn't just a bug it's willful destruction of data & negligence, and as I said probably linked to them trying to force us to share our data with their cloud syncing service that I dont want!
I've lost around 70 tabs, HUNDREDS of bookmarks from around 5 years use (some backed up elsewhere) and around 50 - 60 login credentials!! I AM FURIOUS & RAGING SO HARD I CANNOT GET BACK TO WORK RIGHT NOW!!
Safe to say Firefox is dead and buried for me now! I will be removing from both android and pc once I've tracked and backed up all my data!
Dale, did you have any luck finding & downloading your old profile data? I don't believe root is the solution here as it usually wipes most devices anyways!
For anyone finding this post after this happened with no synch account linked, Firefox stores profile data in the /data/data/org.mozilla.firefox folder. If you have adb installed on your PC it is possible on some device to do an adb backup (no password) of just this folder and extract the data. Some devices will give you an empty .ab archive others will give you most of the contents of the Firefox folder.
EDIT: more S**t F#£ery from Mozilla Devs found whilst researching.. it seems they disabled ALLOW_BACKUP in the manifest around 7 years or so ago, meaning the `adb backup` option is out! Tried on android 7 encrypted device and it asks for password but just gives an empty .ab file!
On bugzilla I found 2 bug IDs of 1808763 & 1297435, basically saying they turned it off because it didn't play nice when restoring! There was talk of them reintroducing it but I guess yet another Smeg up by lazy or incompetent Devs.
Also hopelessly tried the `run-as org.mozilla.firefox` in adb shell. Just in case, but No production access as expected!
The only way I see to recover any data from our profiles (without root) is by installing an actual Firefox build with either debug on or allow backup on! Soo.....
Modified by Firefoxhatesitsusers23
Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that due to gross negligence on the part of the Firefox so-called developers, all of my data is unrecoverable.
Thank you for your feedback.