Rewarding good behavior
One concern about the original proposal was the requirement of temporary or transactional access to the Firefox data. This means web sites can use the data only for the current request to personalize the content, and future visits could not be personalized if the user turned off the sharing of their data. There could be contexts where the user’s data isn’t readily available for the web site such as the user visiting from a different device, computer, or browser; so it might make sense to allow the data to be saved on servers for short periods.
While all the terms are for the user’s benefit, an interesting idea is to have some primarily to help users learn more. An example term would require the web site to report back to the user what parts of the user’s data have been used. Depending on how much the user has allowed to be shared, there could be many attributes, so for example, a technology related page might only use the fact the user is interested in smartphones and ignore the user’s interest in sports.
This reporting back to the user could be formalized through the browser, so Firefox would understand what’s being used as opposed just having the page display some text. This means Firefox could provide a standard interface for users to check what data is used on each of their tabs without needing to search around on the page. Firefox could then also provide a view showing each individual piece of shared data with the sites that is making use of it.
Another approach would be to have a separate entity take on this role of making sure contracts are not broken. A non-profit that cares about the Internet and users’ privacy would seem to fit the part quite well. This group could also directly create contracts with web sites instead of creating them at the per-user level. Contracts are mutually beneficial and agreed upon by both sides, so the non-profit that puts users first can set some standard terms to protect users’ data and privacy. None of this would have to be limited to just Firefox users either, so potentially all Internet users can benefit from the non-profit’s contracts with web sites.
We believe there will be many more ideas in this area given that we made this extra post to cover four topics from the one initial idea last time. So please continue to provide feedback on how Mozilla can help protect users’ data. We’ll continue next week with the originally scheduled experiment that puts some of these pieces of user data together.
– Ed Lee on behalf of the Prospector team