Categories: privacy Uncategorized

How Mozilla Addresses the Privacy Paradox

Earlier this month, a 20 year old NBA Clippers fan held up a sign in a crowded Washington DC arena with her phone number on it. Seasoned privacy professionals have long lamented the old adage that if you give someone a free hamburger, they’ll give you all of their personal information. Yet, research consistently tells us that people care about privacy, so what gives?

Why do people say they care, but not take action? Or take action that isn’t privacy protecting? Research shows a number of reasons including complexity, overvaluing present values while undervaluing future costs, an optimism bias, an illusion of control, even association with responsibility and effort.

According to Pew Research in the United States, 91% of adults think that consumers have lost control over how their personal information is used by companies. That same Pew Research study found a majority (61%) say they “would like to do more” to protect their privacy.

The real turning point is change in cultural and societal norms, and this will happen as behaviors change. This year for Privacy Day, we’ve created a ‘Get smart on privacy‘ campaign. Our goal is to raise awareness and encourage action. Overall, we’re promoting change through a combination of tools, community and teaching.


One of the barriers to widespread use of strong privacy practices is the complexity that can surround privacy tools. First you need to know they exist, then you need to know when and how to use them. If we can raise both awareness and ease of use, that’s essential to broader adoption. A recent example is our Privacy Coach add-on to help users learn about and manage their Firefox for Android privacy settings. We’re moving towards a consistent and easy-to-use privacy experience across our products and features.

For more on tools, visit Denelle Dixon-Thayer’s post on the Mozilla blog.


For Privacy Day and throughout the year, we seek to create an open dialogue on privacy topics. By bringing in new points of view and bringing people together, we further reinforce a culture of privacy. Last year, we invited Dr. Ann Cavoukian to share Privacy by Design, and Michelle Dennedy and Jonathan Fox to discuss topics from their book ‘The Privacy Engineer’s Manifesto.’

This year, we’ve collaborated with local privacy advocates to create a new meetup we’re calling Privacy Lab. Cooper Quintin, from EFF, will keynote the event with “A State of the Union for Privacy and Consumer Protection and Wishlist for 2015.” Following his talk, we’ve planned at least an hour for people to connect and hear about what others are working on and how to get involved. The goal is to advance the state of the privacy ecosystem by bringing passionate privacy promoters and advocates together to explore a common purpose.

To reach a consumer audience, we’ve invited industry leaders to an hour long #PrivacyDay Twitter Chat for anyone who is interested in learning more about privacy. Through a combination of outreach activities, including a new ‘Get smart on privacy‘ website and social media posts, we’re focusing on simple things anyone can learn and do to take more control and create a stronger online privacy environment for themselves.

On January 29th, we’ve invited Nico Sell, co-founder and CEO of Wickr to share her views with us, not because they’re identical to ours, but because they may not be. By bringing in a variety of speakers, we always learn from those who may challenge our thinking.


Perhaps the most important community action we can take is to teach others — so they can in turn teach others . How do we take topics like encryption, or password management and turn them into easy actions for everyone? One path forward is through teaching kits, activities, and badges. These allow us to chunk the information so that it’s more digestible, and make it easy for people to share what they know. Teaching kits are an ideal project for community members who have an interest in sharing privacy with others.

In Toronto, Hive member Karen Smith is developing a privacy curriculum with a grant from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to educate teens about privacy. Karen has collaborated with local teenagers to design and create four privacy badge pathways to encourage engagement through hands-on activities. Projects like this have enormous potential for leverage in other areas. Together we can continue to build our resources and find new ways to share knowledge.

The Mozilla community continues to be a strong voice in advocating for a free and open Web. The time is now to channel this advocacy to enable people to get smarter on privacy, empowering people with the skills to take control of their privacy, change societal norms, and create the Web we want and need.