We didn’t think hard enough about how our actions would affect the community, and we’re sorry for letting you down.
How we got here
Over the course of the year Firefox has enjoyed a growing relationship with the Mr. Robot television show and, as part of this relationship, we developed an unpaid collaboration to engage our users and viewers of the show in a new way: Fans could use Firefox to solve a puzzle as part of the alternate reality game (ARG) associated with the show.
How did it work
Fans of the show enabled this game in Firefox by turning on the “Looking Glass” add-on effect via preferences setting. When enabled, and the user navigated to Mr. Robot’s ARG page, a clue necessary to advance the puzzle would be revealed. When enabled, the add-on would also invert text from a list of words related to the shows themes, throughout the web for a few seconds.
Instead of giving users the choice to install this add-on, we initially pushed an update to Firefox that installed the “Looking Glass” add-on for English speaking users. This add-on was installed and set to ‘OFF’ and made no changes in the user experience unless it was explicitly turned on by a user, but it was added. Even when turned on no user data was collected or shared.
The rollout did not meet the standards to which we hold ourselves causing concern that was surfaced through our Firefox community. We received feedback regarding the transparency of the rollout and the processes that govern our auto-install mechanism for add-ons. In response we immediately started our internal review, updated the add-on with a better description and began the process to move the Mr. Robot Looking Glass tie-in to the add-ons site as a regular WebExtension. We also shared the source in a public repository.
To our community
We’re sorry for the confusion and for letting down members of our community. While there was no intention or mechanism to collect or share your data or private information and The Looking Glass was an opt-in and user activated promotion, we should have given users the choice to install this add-on.
We recognize that real engagement means listening to feedback. We took immediate actions to correct this, and we are conducting a formal internal review to ensure our technical, legal and communications processes and policies are updated for the future.
We take seriously our responsibility to provide a trusted, secure platform for your online life and will always work to maintain the trust of our users.
We’re doing a post-mortem and are going to make changes to our processes. These will be public and we will link to a public list of process changes, likely mid-January.
By Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Chief Marketing Officer