Mozilla’s mission compels us to provide people with an Internet experience that puts them in control of their online lives and that treats them with respect. Respecting someone includes respecting their privacy. We aspire to a “no surprises” principle: the idea that when information is gathered about a person, it is done with their knowledge and is used in ways that benefit that person. People should be made aware of how information is collected and used. Each individual should also be able to decide whether the exchange of personal data for the services received in return feels fair. This can be challenging to achieve, especially when balanced against convenience and ease of use: people expect a fast, streamlined user experience without excessive prompts and confusing choices. But we are always striving toward this ideal.
Mozilla is an active participant in the ecosystem of today’s Web economics. Much of the content and information that people enjoy and benefit from is funded by digital marketing and sponsorship. This is a valid business model. We simply believe that when personal data is collected to deliver these services, the collection should be done respectfully and with the consent of the consumer. Commerce works best when users understand the transactions they engage in. The best long-term customer relationships are built on trust.
Mozilla aspires to enable personalization — the customization of ads, content, recommendations, offers and more — that doesn’t rely on the user being in the dark about who has access to that information, and with whom that information is shared. As a major Web browser provider and, now, OS developer, Mozilla’s role is to experiment and innovate toward that aspiration. As an open source project, where contributions are welcomed by all, we encourage all in the industry to help, by constructively proposing approaches and collaborating with us in the open.
Here are a just a few examples of the work Mozilla is doing to explore personalization with respect:
- Persona is an identity system for the Web. It gives people control over their Web logins. People choose what identity to present to a given service. In particular, people can keep their work, personal, and other facets of their lives distinct.
- Do Not Track allows you to tell a website that you would like to opt-out of third-party tracking for purposes including behavioral advertising. It lets users express how they would like information about themselves to be handled. It has many benefits. People who use Firefox must actively enable Do Not Track, making it very clear that the user has made an explicit choice Also, Do Not Track is independent of any particular technology, providing resilience in the face of technology evolution. We continue to work with a broad range of interested parties to see the Web adopt Do Not Track.
- Third party cookie policies are being evaluated to strike a better balance between personalized ads and the tracking of users across the Web without their consent. For example, an experimental version of Firefox allows cookies to be set by first parties and by third parties where Firefox has stored a cookie for the party’s domain, but to block by default third-party cookies whose domain is not known from Firefox’s cookie store. We’ve been evaluating that approach, as well as others, working with stakeholders from across the industry.
It should be possible to delight users (and yes, the right offer at the right time can be a delight), while treating them with respect. We continue to experiment with and evaluate new ways to put users in control of their Web experience and encourage you to join us in building toward this vision. We will share more updates soon.