Mozilla Firefox wants to collect your browsing data for ‘Research’

Sean Jeffries avatar. By: Sean Jeffries
2 minute read
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Mozilla Firefox has been the power browser of choice for some of us. I had been an avid Firefox user before I switched to the Chrome, thanks to the wide range of extension the latter has to offer. Mozilla has stirred up the hornet’s nest when the company announced that the Firefox product team is mulling collecting browser data in a “privacy preserving way” in order to help improve the browser.

 

Georg Fritzsche from Mozilla published the information along with details on the Mozilla Governance Group. The explanation behind this step is that the Mozilla engineers currently face an issue since they don’t have sufficient data to work with. Firefox engineers are not too keen on working with the data collected during opt-in as they believe its biased data. However, the engineers believe that the data collected with the opt-out would help them research with unbiased data.

The solution is still in the proposal stage and it has been named “differential privacy.” The cornerstone of the data collection in this method is the anonymity. The set of data should not reveal if a specific person data is present or not. Furthermore, it will also help the researchers answer questions like “which top sites are users visiting”, “which sites using Flash does a user encounter,” and “which sites does a user see heavy Jank on.”

The randomness is the key to this entire proposal. Mozilla is apparently planning to run a study on the subset of Firefox’s release population in order to test the effectiveness of the implementation. The good part, however, is that Firefox users will be given an option to disable the data collection and continue to browse their data anonymously. On a related note, this reminds me of the furor the Windows Telemetry had caused, especially when Microsoft momentarily removed the option to opt out.

Mozilla proposes that it will only collect the data from the main domain and not sub domain. All said and done it shouldn’t really matter it the feature is opt-in but otherwise, it does raise a valid concern among Mozilla Firefox users.

Are you comfortable allowing browsers to collect personal data? Reply in the comment section below.

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