October 26, 2006

Firefox 2 releases privacy storm

by Brian Turner

firefox.jpg

The much anticipated Firefox 2.0 was launched by the Mozilla Foundation yesterday – and immediately generated a storm of protests over privacy issues.

Key to privacy concerns is that Mozilla have set up their long-awaited phishing protection feature on Firefox 2.0 – but to use it properly, you have to send Google a record of every single website you visit.

A cookie will record all your behaviour data when using Firefox and provide the information free to Google, who can then use that information for their own commercial purposes.

Although, the feature does require an explicit opt-in, it’s an unwelcome trade-off for many Firefox users, who believe that there is no reason to tie-in phishing protection with providing free data to a billion-dollar multinational.

The concerns may be damaging to the Mozilla Foundation – who have long had a close relationship with Google – and who became a “for-profit” business last year.

The provision of free tools and services simply for the purposes of collecting user data has become a habit with Google in recent years, and especially raised privacy concerns – not simply on the data collection, or how it may be used – but also how it may be collected by government agencies.

However, the overall situation is that Google are probably not actually doing anything in terms of data collection and retention than many other major Internet Service Providers are already doing.

Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL, Amazon, and telecoms companies already store and retain vast amounts of private and often personally identifiable data, via their own service provisions, which are then used for commercial purposes.

The simple truth is that online privacy is already a mess, and that internet users are simply are often not allowed to determine how their personal data may be collected, used, or processed.

While privacy issues online have yet to reach a Tipping Point, it’s clear that the latest collaboration with Google by Mozilla, may be seen to be a million-dollar company selling out its users for profit.

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Story link: Firefox 2 releases privacy storm

 

17 Responses to “Firefox 2 releases privacy storm”

  1. mike on October 26th, 2006 12:48 pm

    go and read , anyone who read this

    http://www.mozilla.org/projects/bonecho/anti-phishing/

    This list is automatically downloaded and regularly updated within Firefox 2 when the Phishing Protection feature is enabled. Since phishing attacks can occur very quickly, there’s also an option to check the sites you browse to against an online service such as Google for more up-to-date protection.

  2. Brian Turner on October 26th, 2006 12:51 pm

    Indeed – it’s the provision of data to Google that raises the concerns.

    I think it’s fair to say some loyal Mozilla followers can’t understand why Mozilla feels they have to provide user data to third-parties, rather than keep it in-house.

  3. Matthew Murphy on October 26th, 2006 10:23 pm

    The Anti-Phishing technology DOES NOT provide information to Google when it is enabled. In order to send your data to Google, you have to not only ENABLE the filter, but also explicitly tell it to check with Google for EACH site you visit. You then have to accept a Google privacy disclosure.

  4. scott on October 27th, 2006 2:40 am

    I see no privacy concerns here.
    It’s _fully_ opt-in (and many users aren’t aware this option exists), requires you to review and agree to a privacy policy and can be switched to whatever provider you choose.
    The only reason Google was chosen to provide the data is because they’re proven leaders in this field and they had the manpower to help implement it in Firefox. If people don’t like that, they can band together, find the well documented protocol and start their own service and offer it to Firefox users.

    While you’re spreading FUD, where’s your story on IE’s phishing protection or Opera’s which don’t offer a non-interactive option, nor the option of switching providers and are much more agressive at trying to get you to send data to them?

  5. Ron on October 27th, 2006 3:33 am

    Don’t you just love sensationalism? I know I do.

    This feature is OPT-IN. The option is turned off by default and there’s no questioning what it does when you turn it on. The option is called “Check by asking Google about each site I visit” and it brings up a full disclaimer of what it does when you check it. You can only get past the disclaimer by checking “I accept” and then “Continue”.

    Phishing sites come and go very quickly. This gives users the option to check the most up-to-date list if they so choose. Worried about privacy? Then don’t turn it on. Simple as that.

    Brian Turner:
    What’s so hard to understand? Mozilla uses Google because Mozilla doesn’t track phishing sites and Google does. How is that a conspiracy?

  6. New Version of Firefox Browser Sends User Data to Google at FreedomFight on October 27th, 2006 4:41 am

    [...] Firefox 2 releases privacy storm, Platinax Small Business News, October 26, 2006. [...]

  7. Brian Turner on October 27th, 2006 8:19 am

    Scott & Ron, if the phishing protection had been provided by Microsoft, then do you think there would still be no room for concern?

    I’m not arguing a conspiracy, or even against Google – as I’ve tried to point out, privacy protection in general is sorely lacking online.

    Google will not issue assurances that the data they collect won’t be used for commercial purposes. They can store and use what Mozilla users provide as they like. That’s the concern being raised.

    As we’ve already seen with the recent AOL debacle, user data isn’t necessarily hard to track to specific users.

  8. John Doe on October 27th, 2006 12:19 pm

    This article is a load of trash. Please research before writing garbage of this nature.

  9. Jane Doe on October 27th, 2006 1:12 pm
  10. AnotherGuest. on October 27th, 2006 7:51 pm

    Whoever wrote the article could have gotten accurate and rather complete information simply by looking at the Firefox menu. You can do it in about 30 seconds.

    Just about everything in the article is wrong. As it turns out, even if you take no action, you will automatically have antiphishing protection that is updated EVERY 30 TO 60 MINUTES, and NO information is sent to Google or anyone else! I have to wait a week for antivirus signatures.

    If you want even better, super-express service, you can opt to ask Google if the URLs are OK. Unlike most EULAs, this one is brief, clear, and readable. If you don’t like it, do nothing and you’ll still be protected.

  11. Anthony Charles on October 27th, 2006 10:05 pm

    Good Lord!!

    Has No One CHECKED ANY FACTS Before publishing or commenting on a “story” Like This??

    Is this type of misinformation indicative of “Platinax” or Journalism in General right now?

    It’s simply one of two things;

    (a)Malicious, Harmful distortions designed to Hurt Mozilla, OR

    (b)Laziness.

    You Choose.

  12. Brian Turner on October 28th, 2006 8:30 am

    I think the reaction that comes out loudest is that privacy protections just aren’t a concern.

    If Firefox user privacy protection was a real concern for Mozilla the data-sharing agreement agreement would read something like:

    “While it is possible that a URL sent to your service provider may itself contain Personally-Identifying Information, Mozilla’s third party service providers have entered into a written agreement with Mozilla not to use Personally-Identifying Information, which will only be temporarily stored for a 30 day period before deletion”.

    What comes across most in some of the above comments is that some people are more concerned about the public image of Mozilla, as opposed to the the protection of Mozilla users. I really can’t subscribe to that as a valid argument.

  13. mozilla links - Mozilla news, tips and more. » Firefox 2 privacy concerns on October 28th, 2006 7:53 pm

    [...] A recent article, raised the question on whether, Firefox 2 new anti-phishing feature may pose a privacy threat. [...]

  14. Plasma Diary - An aggregation of latest updates in Gizmo World! » Does Firefox 2’s anti-phishing tool violate privacy? on October 31st, 2006 12:11 am

    [...] (Via Platinax) [...]

  15. Cordless Phones on January 13th, 2007 6:38 pm

    In this world of digitial telecommunications it’s become increasingly easy for ISP’s to collect data.

    I think the danger is that while Mozilla’s relationship with google is well known, they would certainly be in danger of losing trust across the internet if it was felt that they were providing too much user data to Google.

  16. Right Fire on June 20th, 2007 6:01 pm

    Firefox releases privacy storm? A fire storm by any chance? :)

  17. ??? on August 7th, 2009 12:58 am

    Firefox releases privacy storm? A fire storm by any chance? :)

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