A User Personalization Proposal for Firefox

Justin Scott

63

One of the many benefits of the Web is its ability to create a unique, tailored experience for the individual user. It’s more engaging to see news from friends and favorite brands when logging into a social network, rather than updates from strangers or random content. When done well, personalization on the Web is a win-win: users find relevant content easier while publishers enjoy increased engagement, fewer bounces, and stronger loyalty. But too often, users unknowingly trade their personal information for this better experience.

We recently shared our view that personalization must be handled with respect for the individual user. We want to see even more personalization across the Web from large and small sites, but in a transparent way that retains user control. The team at Mozilla Labs is focused on exploring ways to move the Web forward, and has thought a lot about how the browser could play a role in making useful content personalization a reality.

Last year, the Mozilla Labs Prospector team conducted a series of experiments in which a user’s browsing history could be matched with interests in categories like technology, sports and cooking. Users opted in to these experiments, which transparently showed the user these perceived interests to help them gain insight into how they spend time online. But what if these interests were also available for the user to share with the websites they visit to get a better, more personalized browsing experience?

As part of these experiments, our Labs team has been thinking about ways in which content creators and consumers could benefit from Web-based interests. For example, let’s say Firefox recognizes within the browser client, without any browsing history leaving my computer, that I’m interested in gadgets, comedy films, hockey and cooking. As I browse around the Web, I could choose when to share those interests with specific websites for a personalized experience. Those websites could then prioritize articles on the latest gadgets and make hockey scores more visible. Destinations like the Firefox Marketplace could recommend recipe and movie apps, even if it’s my first time visiting that site. And, as a user, I would have complete control over which of my interests are shared, and with which websites.

With the help of user researchers, we’ve begun testing this concept with volunteer participants to learn how they respond to the idea of sharing their interests on their own terms in order to see personalized content, and the results are promising. We’ve also tapped into a network of innovative Web content publishers such as Hubert Burda Media and Hearst Publications, notably Popular Mechanics, while developing these ideas, and have heard some great feedback and suggestions so far, as mentioned in our post on The Mozilla Blog.

We think this type of offering could bring transparent, effective personalization to users all across the Web in ways we haven’t even thought of yet. What do you think about the ability to share your interests for a personalized experience? What are some types of websites you’d love to see adopt this technology? We’re very interested in your take on it, so please let us know in the Labs discussion group.

63 responses

  1. JS wrote on :

    Recently there was a post on the blogs page titled “UP with People”, where one of your spokespeople mention that several publishers like the ideas that Firefox has come up with for “User Personalization”.

    Since there’s no way to add a comment to that post, I’m going to put this here.

    I don’t care what publishers want, or that they really like this new scheme to increase their marketing revenue. Don’t add more tracking.

    I’m beginning to realize that Mozilla is working to make Firefox as attractive to publishers as possible, while forgetting that those eyeballs looking at their ads could be attached to people who don’t want to be targeted. Stop it. Remember your roots as a “we’ll take Mozilla’s code, and make a great thing with it”, and not as “Google pays us to be on the default toolbar”.

    I’m going to call out “Traitor” and “bloated feature creep” if you guys go ahead with this feature.

    1. Kumar McMillan wrote on :

      You missed the point: this feature would *enable* people to share their interests if they choose to. It’s a paradigm shift from today’s Web where people are not enabled to share their interests. Those interests are *taken* from them. If Firefox doesn’t enable opt-in sharing then publishers will continue to take data from everyone without asking. For your use case, you simply would never share your interests because you don’t want to. You win :)

  2. Dragonic Overlord wrote on :

    Absolutely terrible idea.

    The last thing the internet needs is more “personalization” (read: “invasion of my privacy”). All your marketing jargon does nothing to hide the fact that this is just another tool to allow advertisers, website owners, the NSA, and others to track users online habits and, despite any good intentions you might have, it’s rife with the potential for abuse. I work damn hard to maintain my privacy online, and this would completely undo all that. If you really trust advertisers to actually honor user’s choices and user privacy than you are laughably naive. The temper tantrum the advertisers threw when Microsoft announced that IE 10 would come with “do not track” enabled by default proves that they have no respect for user privacy whatsoever. They track us even when we tell them not too. You don’t need to give them yet another tool with which to invade our privacy.

    I’ve been a loyal Firefox user since 2004. I’ve been loyal to Firefox for all those years because I genuinely felt that I was more secure with Firefox that with any other browser. That combined with all the great add-ons available such as Adblock Plus, NoScript and BetterPrivacy allowed me to maintain at least some semblance of anonymity on the web and put a stop to as much online tracking and profiling as I could. In short, I continued to use Firefox because I trusted Mozilla. But rest assured that the second this horrible proposal is implemented I will abandon Firefox for Opera and never look back. I don’t need or want more “personalization”. I don’t need or want more marketing double speak about “user experience” and about how this isn’t another form of tracking when it clearly is. I don’t need or want a privacy invading “feature” that I have to opt-out of. I want and need a browser that respects my privacy and helps me to maintain it. Apparently Firefox is no longer that browser, and Mozilla is no longer a company I can trust.

  3. Tracy Licklider wrote on :

    Bad idea. I do not want it. I think you misstate the benefits of the Internet. One of the most salient benefits of the Internet is for web sites, advertisers, and ISPs who are able to build dossiers about individuals’ private lives/data, generally without most users being aware of the possibility and generally without the users’ consent.

    One of the main reasons Firefox has succeeded is that it, unlike all the other browsers, was dedicated to users unfettered, secure, and as private as possible use of the Internet. Firefox and its many excellent add-ons defended users’ security and privacy.

    No matter how much Firefox limits this feature by explicit user opt-in, it will just bloat Firefox. If you have to pursue this bad idea, at least make the feature an add-on. That way you can really see whether users want it — they will install it if so. In the meantime, you can keep your principal audience, which, I think, is happy now — and wants to use a browser that defends them from the predations of the web.

    If web sites want to know something about users, they should first act responsibility — not flood each page with dozens of trackers, tracking cookies, LSOs, redirections, and persistent trackers (e.g. Facebook, Twitter…) They should CLEARLY require that users opt-in to being tracked and suffer serious legal consequences if they track a user who did not opt-in. In addition, they should be required to disclose to the user, before the fact and before opt-in/opt-out, what tracking sites and mechanisms they use and whether the user will be tracked after he/she leaves that site.

    Cynical me: even if web sites did the above, I would not trust them. It is and would be hard to prove that they violated their own terms.

    Things are bad enough. Firefox should not add features that make it worse.

    If the code to do this feature is in each and every Firefox, then it might be exploited. If it is not in the base Firefox, then it can not be exploited.

    –Tracy

    –Tracy

    1. Harry wrote on :

      I agree with you! And Firefox will lose another user!

  4. User wrote on :

    If this “feature” becomes part of FireFox you’ll loose many users, if we wanted Chrome like browser we wouldn’t have chosen FireFox. We chose FireFox because it was DIFFERENT FROM Chrome but lately all I see is changes that make it similar and now you want to put spyware inside? Thanks but no thanks. I have already moved to a browser based on FireFox because it removed some of the annoying Chrome like features but if you implement this one (even as an addon that is disabled but part of the default installation) I’m going to have to move away from anything that have FireFox/chrome based software in it – the same way I did with Google Chrome/chromium based products.

  5. stymphale wrote on :

    I use Firefox since 2004. And I have never changed.
    If Mozilla will do that way, you won’t be better than EI and Google Chrome.
    Please think about it.

  6. Firefox Fail – direction DO NOT TRACK ! wrote on :

    Clearly, the author of this blog either does not understand the issues related to DO NOT TRACK ! or is deliberately being evasive in order to try and herd the sheeple for the benefit of the marketers/advertisers. Make your own decision on that.

    Either way he has shown within his comments that he is not qualified to understand the DO NOT TRACK issue.

    In each of his attempts to respond to the various DO NOT TRACK comments seem to be like a propaganda message, as to why his personalised history tracking, is such a wonderful thing for humanity.

    What part of DO NOT TRACK does he not comprehend, it means DO NOT TRACK anything, period, the end.

    The “group think” of which he claims to be party to – promoting such “personalised” “user experience” has been overrun by the advertiser/marketers interests. As such, we may consider this to be the last of that once great web tool (Firefox), it has crossed the Rubicon.

    We should prepare to abandon Firefox, soon or in the near future. For as sure as this issues maybe delayed, it will reappear again in a slightly modified form.

    For once corruption enters a process there is limted, if any opportunity to recover.

  7. SafeGrouch wrote on :

    NO WAY! Implementing this will result in one less long-time Firefox user!

  8. Brian wrote on :

    Just the fact that you’re considering this makes me less comfortable about Firefox. I use your browser because I’ve felt confident that my information was secure. There are certainly reasons for developers to like the tools in Chrome, but I don’t want Google in my life. You can reassure me by making this opt-in only–in other words, with the default being COMPLETELY OFF… or even better, leaving it out of the main product and having a separate version for people who want that function. You can call it Firefox NSA. Please don’t send me to Opera.

  9. Eelis wrote on :

    What the others said. Do not want. Don’t see the point and don’t like the tech.

  10. JS wrote on :

    If you’re not going to accept comments, please just turn off commenting, instead of “holding for moderation”

  11. popol wrote on :

    “We want to see even more personalization across the Web from large and small sites”

    We, users, do not want this bullshit.

  12. Radomizer wrote on :

    This sounds like a sad initiative. Or… perhaps you’re listening to the wrong people. See http://www.iab.net/iablog/2013/07/has-mozilla-lost-its-values.html

  13. Win7 wrote on :

    No, no and never. We will dump Firefox inmediately. Mozill is on the wrong way with this privacy monster.

  14. allaboard wrote on :

    All aboard the HMS Sellout. Basically it works the way that tracking cookies does, except actually reading your history instead which is worse b/c it is a lot easier to manage cookies than histories. You can block third party cookies, you can set for them to expire when you close your browser. Histories….yeah, am I going to manually delete every single entry that I don’t want to share?

    However, according to Mozilla, its ok b/c we are asking users to opt in. After frankly the disgraceful behavior of Jonathan Mayer toward the ad industry very publicly on twitter and even going so far as railing against Mozilla engineers in the bug reports trying purge Firefox to his ideological standards, Mozilla has zero credibility on the issue.

    Get your house in order Mozilla. Right now it is full of the worst mixtures of ideologically, internet and personal politics, and dysfunction. One hand not knowing what the other is doing.

  15. Dan Q wrote on ::

    Mozilla CueCatFox?

  16. a wrote on :

    “One of the many benefits of the Web is its ability to create a unique, tailored experience for the individual user”

    FALSE, please kick your marketing guys asap.

    What people really wants is an STANDARIZED experience without any kind of tracking to justify a “personal experience” as seems to be the fashion lately on governments and big tracking companies.
    I want to be able to tell my friend “hey, google this and click on the first result” without he telling me he entered in a completely different website because he lives in another country as shown by his IP, uses another browser language, acesses a regional google page, google uses his records to show him things related to what he searched for yesterday and now… because he uses soontobeCRAPfox.

    If I didn’t care about my privacy I would have never switched to FF from IE. I know you have wasted stuff and money already into this, and that the sexy blondie who explained this project to you with some “ultracool” colored graphs might have convinced you into going into this anyways despite the community advices, but trust me: don’t do it.

  17. Pete Control wrote on :

    Are you gonna be the next Canonical?
    Your marketing speak may give a hint, talking about “user experience”, “complete control” bladiblah…
    And what do you mean with “complete control”?
    My IP, language,font,browser settings and more will be delivered anyway on top with every sent request (including my “Uh-I-decided-freely-to-share-my-interests-and it-is-all-stored-local”). From that point it is not as difficult to merge my “uh-i-am-so-much-under-control-PROFILE” with my IP and assign it to a person in a way, it can be re-recognised. Tracking at its best. Have you not been reading any news in the last six weeks?

    So dont give us acarrot stick, saying “Uh, it gives you the ability to share your interests” and try to introduce another tracking feature as something, that would be desired by the user.

    It is not a g00d idea, so just leave it.

  18. Vasya N wrote on :

    I’m glad, really glad about this news. Why?
    * Right now this info is collected only by monopolies and using dirty technologies all the time. And monopolies are bad, as I think.
    * Introducing these features will give small companies a good start. It will not limit the user rights at the same time.

    (I don’t expect quick bonuses for myself, but I expect them in general. And I do wish to enable this API for sites I like.)

  19. zeus wrote on ::

    This is a revolution for a true distributed web.
    Go on.

  20. SR wrote on :

    I miss the ability to search in bookmark folders. It was a feature removed a while back. So here’s what I think… if you are going to remove useful features at least focus on making the browser faster and more responsive instead of bloating it up again with useless junk like social and this one.

    1. SaphirJD wrote on :

      That is exactly the point what Mozilla is not understanding…

      Inserting stuff like “Tracking light” opt-in Feature, Social API, The ability to communicate through the browsers.. Tons of stuff which makes the Browser in reality more heavier – On the other side they try to make the Browser then lighter with Feature Removal like Removal of the most customization Features…

      How about adding the Raw Performance of Webkit-Engine and Webstandards Compatibility! Then you have at least a good excuse to take away all customization options!

      Opera already has done that, and even if many people do not like the Fact that they can not customize the Browser much anymore, they are at least acknowledging that the new Opera is instead Faster and can show more stuff accurately!

      If you take away something, you have to give something of value – and if it is something unique like Customization, then give back something MUCH better as a simple new basic Skin which emulates another browser or the Content Personalization stuff which which is only of real value for advertising companies !

      How about giving Firefox Users something of Value Mozilla? You have forgotten how to treat users with Respect?

  21. SaphirJD wrote on :

    Thanks for giving me another Reason not to use Firefox anymore – you lost me now 1000% as as user by now!

    First your plans to restrict Future In Browser Customization to the level of Google Chrome (What Chrome does not have Firefox will soon not have), adding the Chrome look and now also something like THAT!

    Staying gladly with smaller Linux/Windows Browser Projects like Qupzilla or Midori from now on, they have a own look, they even have much Customizations and for sure they DO NOT insert such stuff like this!

    I am by now so damn utterly disappointed, Recommending Firefox is by now impossible!

  22. SaphirJD wrote on :

    Ok, thanks for giving me another reason not to switch to Firefox anymore!

    First your plans to restrict Customization similiar to Chrome Customizations (All which Chrome is not able to do soon Firefox will not be able to do) with giving Firefox a more Chrome like Look and now THIS!

    You know what? You lost me 1000% as a user by now and gave me all reasons i need for staying with small Linux/Windows Browser Projects!

  23. Scorzonera wrote on :

    “One of the many benefits of the Web is its ability to create a unique, tailored experience for the individual user.”

    I call BS.
    Every attempt so far to do this, was just a reason for me to irritate the hell out of the results I was getting back. It’s always generic commercial crap, slightly localized or related to me in some sort of vague way. I can see where the so called benefits are, and it’s not with me.

    It’s funny how others like to try to think for me and than have the audacity to call it ‘personalization’.

    Nobody can predict what I would like or what would interest me at any given moment. And thus others must fail every time in attempting to do so. What has this to do with ‘personalization’, anyway? I am the only one that actually knows what I want to do, see, hear, buy and when I want to do such things.

    All the things mentioned in this blogpost is already available to me via (tabbed) bookmarks and/or social API’s on web sites. I’ve been doing this for years already, without the need or desire for others to meddle with it. No predictions necessary, and that’s also why I even get to content that surprises me or I would have never thought of previously.

    “Mozilla (…) has thought a lot about how the browser could play a role in making useful content personalization a reality.”

    Well, stop thinking about it. Let me handle my own personal business of interest. It’s not up to you, ever.

    I need a browser to surf the web. Period.

    I don’t need a browser that serves me some sort of version of a specific region of the web.
    (Based on highly commercial predictions that will fail.)

    Ugh…

    Here, these were my 2 cents. HTH, HAND.

  24. Cryptic wrote on :

    I completely disagree with the opening premise of this article and proposal.

    I want to personalize my own web experience by selecting and searching for the things that I want to look at. I don’t need or want a third-party to personalize it for me.

    I don’t want even more personalization of the web for large and small publishers.

    I don’t want or need a publisher to show me a page that is radically different from the one shown to another person.
    If I did want a personally tailored experience then I would select those interests whilst being logged into an account on that publisher’s web site which would filter by my choices.

    I do not want to share my interests or personal data in such a blanket fashion with any third-party.

    I don’t believe it would even be technically possible to prevent this data from being stored and reused after it is accessed like the proposal states.

    I don’t want or need this built into the browser.
    I DO want the browser to protect my privacy and anonymity where ever possible.

    It is not acceptable that privacy breaking features be opt out either, any such feature should always be opt in.

    You currently have a great browser.

    If you want to improve it further, incorporate features from Noscript, Adblock, Ghostery and RequestPolicy out of the box that better preserve our privacy and not with privacy breaking features.

  25. Johannes Koponen wrote on ::

    I’m wondering if we at Scoopinion could help you? We use addons to track reading behavior of newsreaders to aggregate stories based on reading speed and time.

  26. Jim wrote on :

    Please, don’t do it.

    I believe Firefox is still being written for the sole benefit of the users. That is why I trust you, which these days is a killer feature for me. Once you engage in adding antifeatures this will end.

    I didn’t consider the “do not track” switch an antifeature because it really didn’t do/disclose anything. Your current proposal is different in that respect. None of these techniques can possibly work anyway because they assume honesty of the advertisers, while creating an incentive to be dishonest (dishonest ones end up with more data and income).

    If you want to help the users’ privacy (very much appreciated) there is plenty of things you can do:
    - an adblock on by default
    - a good default cookie blocker (the internal one is crap, existing addons are poorly integrated)
    - implement MultiFox like identity manager (preferably v.1 like – with one identity per window), that (unlike Multifox) integrates well with Firefox and cookie blocker.
    - minimize number of information passed to websites (no fonts or detail version information, unified capabilities)
    - create a JS/webfonts repository as an alternative to googleapis etc. and enable users to redirect requests to it/them.

  27. John Corliss wrote on :

    Justin, I have just read through the comments and don’t see ONE that supports your viewpoint. Why then are you persisting in saying that SHARING A PERSON’S BROWSING HISTORY with a website is a good idea? Are you a US government shill or what? >80(>

  28. abc wrote on :

    Yeah, with submission of crash report and also firefox health report enabled by default Mozilla already knows more than it should,now i bet that this will be enabled by default as well and out of the millions of people who use firefox a handful of people might disable it and rest might not know that they are being tracked.
    Mozilla Going Google Chrome’s way with tracking which sucks.
    Never thought i would say this but it seems that IE is the way to go in the future!!

  29. D Simmons wrote on :

    Let me add my voice to the chorus– this is a really bad idea. If I want to share my interests with a web site I am perfectly capable of doing it myself.

    This will also be a complete nightmare from a usability point of view. I cannot think of a single way this could be done without being extremely intrusive or so passive that it is either an automatic opt-in or utterly useless. There will either have an obvious button that that allows you share the information, likely a pop-up, or a button that is so un-obvious that it won’t be discoverable (which is what I would vote for).

    Another usability problem would center around removing an ok to share your data. If I mistakenly ok a site or,if learn the site is shady, how do I remove it?

    Yet another problem is how much information to share? If I go to the Register.com I might want to share certain aspects of my tech life but wouldn’t have any desire to share any aspect of my social life. If I go to facebook I might want to share my my social live, but not my tech life. I would assume that the default would be “share everything” which isn’t even slightly acceptable. The only way I could control this at all is through an interface that would allow me to select what information I wish to share with a site. The easy answer is none even if there were a benefit.

    Also, the potential for a private data breach here is immense. The amount of testing needed to secure the API would be terrific and even then you won’t find every bug.

  30. herbalist wrote on :

    In other words, it doesn’t matter if the users like the idea or not. It’s obvious that you’re disregarding every comment that doesn’t agree with what you think is a great idea.

  31. Shaika-Dzari wrote on :

    It’s an horrible idea.
    What I’m searching currently is to minimize tracking. You may think website will use this api to create richer content but we all know how it will end.

    Seriously so sick of all these “social features”. How about a real dial, proper bookmark ui, performance?

  32. mastershake wrote on :

    do not do this, any of it. regardless of what you keep saying you can clearly see NO ONE wants this. im a SOLE firefox and nightly/ux user and ill be HAPPY to move on if this comes to be. i dont want tracking of any kind sent or otherwise for any purpose. and will also remove ff from family pc’s as well. i can use any other browser out there if i dont care about being tracked and have info stored and have ads served to me. i dont want a set list and i dont want a guessed list either. my clients who are not advances users will not want this either they will not want any additional things to configure and they will end up calling me and in the end will have me remove it if its something else that requires them to configure it. DO NOT WANT!

  33. DrBenGolfing wrote on :

    No thanks, we’ve got Obama tracking us already, trying to force companies to hand over our e-mail passwords, tapping our phone. Such stuff from Mozilla just adds another bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

  34. ololo123 wrote on :

    wtf, almost 2 years since discovery of BEAST attack and your browser still doesnt support TLS 1.2 – critical feature for online banking. (https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/959936)
    this is how you are protecting your users?

    and you cannot make corract displaying of TEXT half a year: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=812695

    i’m using IE10 now, now it has adblock and latest tls.

  35. Alex wrote on :

    This is neither unique nor tailored experience for the individual user.
    This is so-called USER TRACKING!!!

  36. junior wrote on :

    If implemented Firefox will waltz into the next decade without the support of google, and will leave the corpse of Idealism in its wake.

  37. mhwc wrote on :

    In simple terms:

    DO NOT WANT!

    And I have yet to see any FF user who likes this idea. It adds no value. It only detracts.

  38. A Pissed Off Soon to be a Former Firefox User wrote on :

    Get a clue, we already have enough of this tracking, profiling, helping the user experience double speak junk.

    Go figure out if you are a browser or a junk advertiser pimp daddy!

    Right now you are going the pimp route, prove otherwise. Lastly, if this is your desired direction, I will release a forked browser!

    1. David wrote on :

      I want to echo these sentiments.

      DO NOT WANT. I don’t even want yet another new fiddly “please don’t try keep a profile of my interests” setting I have to remember turn off every time I install on a new system. I’m sick of it, sick of all this tracking business and anything that even remotely resembles it. I want nobody to store anything at all about me. And I want the browser to HELP ME in that goal, not make it harder.

      1. Justin Scott wrote on ::

        Hi David,

        We’re sick of the tracking too. (You may have heard about Do Not Track, a standard that we pioneered and continue to fight for.) And we think this proposal is a great feature for users who also don’t want to be tracked, but still want personalized content. We agree that Firefox should help you avoid tracking, and this provides an alternative to 3rd party cookies following you all over the web. Instead, your interests stay on your device and you have complete control over when and if they’re shared. Please take another look at the post — it’s compatible with everything you’ve mentioned in this comment.

        1. JS wrote on :

          I think you missed the incompatibility of not wanting any tracking anywhere. If my Firefox browser knows that I like “X, Y, and Z”, then some part of the code in Firefox is tracking what I’m doing, and deciding that I like “X, Y, and Z”. The tracking is what I have issues with, and is probably what the OP had in mind, too.

          I wouldn’t need complete control of what tracking information my browser sends to a web site if it did not track me. Don’t track me means just that. In my experience, the better the tracking from any source, the more annoying the ads, since they get “better” at attracting my limited attention. Websites that do have good personalization ASK what you like. Bad ones ask your browser to guess, and then send over ads that “match” your inferred preferences.

          No thank you. Do not track me with ads, do not track me within my own web browser, and stop assuming that the fact that I use your web browser means I like the built-in tracking that comes with it.

  39. jhull wrote on :

    Mozilla may need to explore the question are they a marketing firm or a browser developer group. I see no value in having you, Mozilla, actively assisting marketing and advertising companies by collecting, synthesizing, and regurgitating my browser activity to websites.

    I already know my interests. I know my needs, and I do not need to be either “guided” to a targeted set of ads or have my interests displayed on a public device (be it phone or PC) for anyone to see, even it is my interest in unicorns and gnomes. More importantly I do not need my browser taking part in helping companies gather this information. At the least be neutral, at best, as toll keepers to the “information highway” protect my viewing habits by making information gathering an Opt-In, not an Opt-Out experience. You are not beholding to advertisers so why shill for them. They can try to track me, I don’t need you to tell them where I go.

    In short, a lousy idea and one not worthy of the fine product Firefox has become.

    (I would guess your test group was not made up of slashdot members. Not one likes the idea and they are pretty clear bout how they feel.)

    1. Justin Scott wrote on ::

      Hi jhull,

      To reinforce one of the most critical aspects of this proposal, Mozilla isn’t collecting any of this data nor assisting anyone in gathering it. Your interests remain on your own machine until you choose to share them with a website. Mozilla doesn’t see your interests, and if you don’t want to share your interests, you don’t have to.

      This proposal is aimed at users who do want to see personalized content, without being tracked all over the web by cookies. Your data and interests are yours and this gives you the ability to share with websites who want to respect your privacy by asking instead of taking.

      I hope that helps clarify things.

      1. David wrote on :

        I don’t even want any record of my “interests” sitting on my machine. Software should not even be TOUCHING my ‘history’ other than to manage it. This creates a new risk that this could be exploited (e.g bug in browser, exploited, and your history gets exposed), and so the problem is that now I’ll have to BEHAVE AS IF my information ‘might’ be exposed … worrying about every website I visit. No thank you.

      2. David wrote on :

        There are so many problems with storing your ‘interests’ it’s not funny, and I can’t even believe this is a serious proposal. Imagine one of your ‘interests’ is that you happen to be gay or are interested in gay rights .. in many parts of the world letting others know about that ‘interest’ could get you physically assaulted or even arrested.

        And law enforcement targeting innocent people are now going to have yet another thing to dig into when they seize computers for ‘evidence’. E.g. if one of your ‘interests’ is growing pot, or visiting sex workers, or even if you are a sex worker, i.e. member of a group whose rights are violated. And I bet that could be used as probable cause too.

        What about people who live in countries with oppressive governments. E.g. imagine you’re a woman in a strict Muslim country and one of your ‘interests’ is liberty for women to dress how they want or one of your interests is that you want women to be allowed to be educated. If government authorities accidentally find out about this ‘interest’ then you could be exposed and arrested or even killed.

        And it won’t be long before these ‘interests’ end up as part of your NSA profile, either, one way or another – you know it, we all know it.

        What if I’m a photographer or researcher on freedom of expression and I innocently am reading up on cases like Bill Henson … and next thing you know someone gets hold of this as an “interest” and I’m labelled a pedo and my life and reputation ruined.

        Really, ENOUGH ALREADY. What we need is browsers that go OUT OF THEIR WAY to IMPROVE privacy. E.g. build in a “Tor mode” or something.

        1. Justin Scott wrote on ::

          We plan to discuss more about the proposed API and interest set in the coming weeks, but we would not support any interests that are likely to be removed by many people. For example, none of the examples you gave above would be included in the default interest set exactly for reasons like those you give.

          In the case of government seizing computers, keep in mind that interests are derived from your web history, so if someone has your computer, they have a lot more than just your matched interests.

          1. JS wrote on :

            If someone has your computer, it still doesn’t mean that your computer should actively help them figure out what you do by having MORE built-in tracking.

            I’d rather they have to run at least 1 third-party tool to get the information from web-history, instead of just looking through the browser’s list of my inferred preferences. Stop adding security holes.

      3. David wrote on :

        Another potential backdoor for privacy violations is through website admins. I happen to run websites with thousands of non-anonymous users. Now I could link and store “interests” of many of those users. And every website admin could do this.

      4. Hg wrote on :

        Thanks for clarifying this.

        I would like to point out that the language you use when responding to comments is much clearer and more to the point than the way you wrote the blog post, which reads like marketing talk. By using down-to-earth language that actually and factually tells people how things work instead of focussing on great experiences and benefits you get the message across much better. It would have worked well in the blog post itself, I think.

  40. Mr Glass wrote on :

    How about we eliminate the ability of our browsers to track and report on everything we do? Surely you can see the profound privacy concerns that arise when the browser is the main data gathering device? The marketing/data/ad companies that already try this kind of thing are not trustworthy and will still track visitors no matter what information Mozilla sells them or what agreement not to track they sign.

    We don’t need to worry about a website trying to track us and selling anything and everything they can find about us (which they will do anyway even if Mozilla is selling our information to all comers)? Now we need to worry about Firefox joining the ‘spy on every user’ landscape?

    This type of approach means that not even a plug-in, add-on or extension can stop the intrusion into each Firefox user’s privacy. Even our https & private browsing sessions will now be saved and sold by Mozilla.

    I guess we don’t need to worry about man-in-the-middle attacks when we have mozilla-in-the-browser doing it.

    1. Justin Scott wrote on ::

      Hi,

      Firefox knows where you go on the web because it gets you to all those places and remembers so you can quickly get back to them. Mozilla is the organization that makes Firefox, and has no idea where you go on the web, because Firefox doesn’t send browsing data to anyone, including Mozilla. Your browsing history, as it always has in Firefox, stays with you.

      All this proposal changes it that users now have the ability to choose to share interests (derived from browsing history, but not actual URLs or websites) when they’d like to see personalized content. Mozilla still doesn’t see what URLs you visit, or even what your interests are. You are in control of your own interests and browsing history, as it should be.

      1. elmo wrote on :

        “Firefox knows where you go on the web because it gets you to all those places and remembers so you can quickly get back to them.”

        ?? many of us just block cookies and delete history every 15 mins or so, so idk what you’re referring to here. this is the same road Ubuntu went down about a year ago and we know what its all about – its about the money you get from tracking us from companies like Google. How much is google paying you this year, $300 to $400 million? and what percentage of Mozilla’s total revenue is that – 90 percent? we know who’s calling the shots.

        btw why don’t you just charge people for a privacy oriented browser? i think i might pay $30/year or so, just like an AV subscription.

  41. Looby Looe wrote on :

    Even think about implementing this
    and you are tomorrow’s Netscape !

  42. Jo wrote on :

    This entire concept sends shudders down my back. The last thing I want is personalization of the Internet and I certainly do not want it from my browser! Not everyone has heartily embraced Web2. There are many out there who remain true to the wonderful, exhilarating freedom of Web1 and we will never embrace Web2. We are still true to the original concept of the Web. Most of us use Fx, and have since its inception, (or we use Sea Monkey). I work hard to stay anon on the net and I don’t want my browser to make that even more difficult.

    What I would like to see would be for Mozilla to take the lead in STOPPING the terrible tracking and snooping. Give me tools, for instance, that will allow me to use Google search without Google having the ability to record my searches (even though I have no Google account and don’t allow cookies)…something like (but far superior that actually works) the extension Google Sharing. As for sites like Facebook those users already made their choices for Web2, the horse is out of the barn, and no point in trying to lock the barn door now with your notion of “user sovereignty”. Plus, your notion about users wanting even more “personalization” (read privacy invasion) is true only for those who embrace Web2 principles and those users won’t care in the slightest about your cloud offering over another one.

    Where you could make a real, meaningful difference is to help those of us who are struggling to remain anon on the net …to be true to the original purpose of the net as a tool to free us all not further enslave us as giving up privacy (which in turn limits our freedom and liberty) on sites like Facebook, GMail, Google search, does. Unfortunately, with this proposal, Mozilla is coming across as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Plus, you have revealed that you don’t grasp the problem and want simply to magnify it as there is already way too much personalization robbing everyone of privacy yet you want to increase that personalization but claim your way will give back some privacy which it cannot because privacy once lost is forever gone. You should be helping those who understand this and educating those just beginning to use the internet about these dangers….that is if you really want to do something meaningful.

  43. Perry Linus wrote on :

    Is this a joke? I thought that Chrome is the only one that sell user data to the enterprises -.-

  44. anon wrote on :

    I think it’s a horrible idea.

    This is what persistent cookies are for. It’s a duplication of that functionality that adds possible exploit paths to exposing browser history and/or information that websites have absolutely no business seeing.

    You’re making a huge assumption that users will be any better at configuring this correctly than they are at using a third party cookie manager, or configuring their browser security settings. A better in-built cookie manager would be a better use of development time. Users can already choose which sites they want to share cookies with.

    When you do implement it, make sure you do it in such a way to allow for custom builds to easily not include those modules at all. At a minimum it should be turned completely off by default and require opt-in. Unlike the last update that silently turned on Telemetry when installed and required explicit opt-out (unchecking) after it was installed – without notifying the user that it was turned on in the first place.

    1. Justin Scott wrote on ::

      Hi there,

      Cookies are not “for” personalization; cookies simply store data on a user’s machine and have been used (some would say abused) to power massive tracking systems. One of the potential uses of the tracking system is content or ad personalization, but it’s not the primary purpose of a cookie, and cookies can’t do it without a lot of help. Most users do not understand what cookies are (even if they’ve heard of them) and opting out of tracking programs, if that option is even provided, is only done by those who know 1) that they’re being tracked, 2) that opting out might be possible, and 3) where to go to opt out.

      This proposal is very different from that, in that users are in complete control of when and if their interests are shared with which websites, including which specific interests are shared. Websites accessing these interests will not be allowed to store the interests or track the user using them; the interests are only to be used for personalization of the current page. We think it’s a great option for websites who want to respect their users’ choice and control, and can be up front and transparent about how it works.

      1. d wrote on :

        What will prevent this “interest” from being stored and associated with some cookie or login or ip address or some kind of session identifier? And from there, it could easily be associated with some website login, Facebook login, Twitter login, smartphone identifier of some kind, email addresses … etc. What will prevent this from happening? How is the user supposed to be assured that the “interest” will only be used to personalise the current page? If this is all based on how much the user can trust the website, I’d say that this will likely make things worst before it can make things better (assuming it is even given a chance at making things better :p).

      2. JS wrote on :

        You just don’t get it. Websites these days generally won’t respect user choice, and if you add another tracking method, it’s another security hole. Don’t tell me it’s not tracking, just because it’s not someone else’s computer doing it.

        Stop tracking me means just that. Stop tracking. Don’t add more tracking, even if you think it isn’t tracking.

  45. DC Martin wrote on :

    It reminds me of P3P; however, I think you need to consider the browser a collection agent for the base data values and perhaps a broker who could cache that information for submission to real-time programmatic advertising systems (e.g. RocketFuel) who could extract insights and value from the data.

    More generally, managing the exposure of browser information to web sites (e.g. browser type, screen resolution, cookies, local storage, ..) is a weak aspect of all current browsers. Even the third-party cookie management of Firefox, while good, suffers from lack of usability when “Ask every time” is selected.

    Starting this effort with a focus on aggregating and controlling exposure to both web sites and potentially selectable programmatic brokers, marketplace and engines the information available about the consumer from browser today. I think it would be both enlightening to the user base as well as engaging w.r.t. building the “profile” of the user. Additionally, as a user agent, the browser could be authorized by the user to interact with social networks (e.g. FB via OAUTH) and other aggregators of personal information.