As promised in my last post on User sovereignty, I’m going to detail how Mozilla helps users keep control over their data and protect their privacy while using the Web. This is done on many different levels. For those who want to dive into more details, I can’t recommend enough the Mozilla Privacy blog.
Let’s review how Mozilla brings more privacy to users:
The most obvious way for Mozilla to protect users’ privacy is to build Firefox to do so. For example, Firefox supports what’s called the “Private browsing” mode, that leaves no traces on the user’s computer, so that a third party accessing this computer would not be able to know which sites have been visited during the private session. A lot more privacy features could be listed here, but I’ll skip them for the sake of clarity.
In a similar vein, a service called Firefox Sync enables Firefox users to share bookmarks and browsing history across multiple devices. Firefox Sync encrypts all this data between devices in a way that does not allow Mozilla, as an organization, to access it. On the downside, encryption has a cost, as my colleague Ben Adida explains.
Code transparency and reuse
How can one trust Mozilla to do the right thing when it comes to privacy? Trust derives from transparency: the code that you run is public, developed in the open, in a transparent way. Transparency and community-based development make it code you can trust: anyone can see how the code is developed and how decisions are made.
I mentioned Collusion in a recent post, as it’s one of the things that Mozilla does to educate users about being tracked. To better understand what Collusion is about, I encourage my readers to view Mozilla’s CEO Gary Kovacks ‘Tracking the trackers‘ TED video. It’s eye-opening.
Lots of things are going on at a political level around the world when it comes to protecting privacy. This is why Mozilla has been participating to the public debate on proposed legislation like SOPA & PIPA, proposed international agreements like ACTA, and most recently CISPA.
Do Not Track
Do Not Track is an interesting initiative by Mozilla because it works on two very different levels: it’s a product feature that actually sparks a debate on advertisers tracking users. As a product feature, it’s just a preference for you to tell websites that you don’t want to be tracked by them. The debate comes from whether and how websites honor your preference. Pioneered by Firefox, this feature has now been adopted by other browser vendors, and supported by major content sites such as Yahoo. It is now implemented into Mozilla’s Boot 2 Gecko mobile operating system and has gained important supporters such as the White House and the US Commerce Department.
Enabling an ecosystem
Firefox has always been a pioneer in terms of personalization, using add-ons for Firefox, Thunderbird, and other Mozilla-based programs. This has enabled thousands of developers to build extensions to Firefox in order to address specific issues. Privacy is no exception, with a few very popular add-ons such as Ghostery, BetterPrivacy, and many others. This approach enables us to play our part, but we also enable others to do the same.
As a not-for-profit organization, Mozilla makes sure that “Firefox answers to no one but you” when it comes to user control and privacy protection. There are many things that remain to be done in this domain as the Web keeps evolving. So as a user, you can trust Mozilla and its Firefox Web browser. But if you want to go further and join Mozilla to do more and invent the future of user sovereignty, please come and join Mozilla and start contributing!