Tuesday, 25 September 2018 09:18

Firefox collects data on you through hidden add-ons Featured

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Firefox collects data on you through hidden add-ons Pixabay

Mozilla, the organisation that produces the Firefox browser and makes a loud noise about its open source credentials, is quietly collecting telemetry data on its users by the use of hidden add-ons, even though publicly visible telemetry controls are not selected.

Under the Preferences tab, one can go to the Privacy and Security options and view the data collection options. In this case, they are not checked:

firefox1

But if one drills down into Firefox, one can see at least add-ons which are obviously there to collect telemetry data:

telemetry

It appears that Mozilla's Marshall Erwin, the director of Trust & Security — a somewhat Orwellian title — issued a note in August that would do the author of that tome proud.

Wrote Erwin: "...we will measure Telemetry Coverage, which is the percentage of all Firefox users who report telemetry. The Telemetry Coverage measurement will sample a portion of all Firefox clients and report whether telemetry is enabled. This measurement will not include a client identifier and will not be associated with our standard telemetry."

This is not the first time that Mozilla has tried to spy on Firefox users and collect data without giving the user the choice to opt out. An add-on called Looking Glass, which was an advertisement for a TV program, installed itself on Firefox without permission and showed ads periodically.

When this was found out, Mozilla made what could only be described as a grovelling apology, saying: "Instead of giving users the choice to install this add-on, we initially pushed an update to Firefox that installed the 'Looking Glass' add-on for English speaking users."

But the organisation, which takes great pride in stressing its open source credentials, has done it again. Business considerations, apparently, take precedence over user privacy.

Mozilla has been contacted for comment.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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