We’re More Than The Sum Of Our Data

Alex Fowler

From the day I first browsed the Web, Mozilla has shaped my experience of the Internet. The community is one of the strongest forces making the Web what it is today. So I was intrigued when I was offered the chance to go from loyal user to paid contributor. The Web’s quick growth was creating new privacy concerns and Mozilla wanted to get in front of them. I had a successful consulting practice advising some of the biggest consumer brands on privacy and security, but I wanted to explore ways to have more impact.

What I found at Mozilla was truly inspiring. In the midst of massive investments in tracking and mining of user data, here was a group of people fiercely committed to making individual control part of the Web. Not since my time at the Electronic Frontier Foundation had I encountered an organization so well placed to reshape trust in the Internet. I was hooked.

That was three years ago, and I believe our work is more important than ever. According to leaked documents from Edward Snowden, governments see their ability to spy into our personal lives as the “price of admission” for use of an open Web. The same justification is given by industry lobbyists: that online tracking is the price for content and services. The powers-that-be believe we surrender the basic rights and freedoms we enjoy offline when we are online. And as someone who cares deeply about the Web, I take this personally.

A small group of people has decided that our privacy doesn’t matter. Privacy isn’t a philosophical abstraction. It’s what lets us control who we are through what we choose to reveal. It’s core to our autonomy, identity, and dignity as individuals. Privacy is what lets us trust that our laptops, phones, apps, and services are truly ours and not working against us. Abandoning privacy means accepting a Web where we are no longer informed participants.

At Mozilla, we believe privacy and security are fundamental and cannot be ignored. It’s enshrined in our Manifesto. However, we prefer to skip the platitudes, white papers, and insider deals; choosing, instead, to drive change through our code. Industry groups and policy makers had been debating Do Not Track for years before we showed up, wrote 30 lines of code, and gave it — for free — to hundreds of millions of Firefox users. Within a year, all of the other major browsers followed our lead. We saw the same thing happen when we killed the annoying pop-up ad. And we’re doing it again, together with members of our contributor community, testing new approaches to cookies, personalization and more.

In the wake of Snowden’s revelations and the work of countless journalists and advocates, we have a rare moment to change things for the better. Each week, front-page articles detail new intrusions into our private lives by governments and corporations around the world. 570,000 people signed a letter demanding our governments StopWatching.Us, which we delivered, in person, to politicians in Washington, DC. Over 50 million people have enabled Do Not Track,  sending trillions of anti-tracking signals across the Web each month and asking companies to respect their privacy. The world is being reminded of why privacy — why openness, transparency, and individual control — are fundamental not just to the Web, but to the future of our global, hyper-connected world.

I joined Mozilla because I found a community of people working to build the Web we need. If you believe that the Web and our privacy and security are worth fighting for, I ask you to support our work. Mozilla may compete in commercial markets, but we are proudly non-profit. Your personal contribution and those of other individual donors make it possible for us to stand up for users and our right to privacy. Click here to make a year-end donation to Mozilla — and help us build a Web that puts people before profits.

Alex Fowler
Chief Privacy Officer
Mozilla


This post launches the Mozilla end of year fundraising campaign. Over the balance of the year, you’ll hear personal stories from some of our leaders about why they joined Mozilla, the challenges that face the Web, and why your support matters. I’m pleased to have written the kick-off post and look forward to the discussion to come. — AF