Mozilla Accidentally Makes Users Think They Have Spyware

Mozilla Accidentally Makes Users Think They Have Spyware

posted Sunday Dec 17, 2017 by Scott Ertz

Mozilla Accidentally Makes Users Think They Have Spyware

Generating revenue from a free product is always hard to do, especially when there is no real place for advertising. It's not a new scenario for a web browser to build a partnership in an attempt to increase revenue. So, the idea of a partnership between Mozilla, who promotes online privacy and security, and an online game from hacker TV show Mr. Robot, is a clear winner.

Unfortunately, a clear winner only works if you can implement the partnership in the right way. One way you can ruin a sure thing is to force-install a plugin on users' browsers, whose description merely reads, "MY REALITY IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS." Reddit users began to panic, flooding the site with comments, including, "I have no idea what it is or where it came from. I freaked out a bit and uninstalled it immediately."

Finding any software that you have no idea what it is, gives no useful description, and you did not install is never a positive. It gets worse, though, as a browser plugin which also doesn't expose its permissions, and could be logging keystrokes, passwords and browsing history.

Mozilla learned their lesson following the negative attention and removed the auto-installed plugin process. Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, Mozilla's chief marketing officer, said in a statement,

Suffice to say, we've learned a good deal in the last 24 hours... Although we always have the best intentions, not everything that we try works as we want.

This should be a reminder of what control others have over our devices. We all remember Apple forcing its iPhone owners to download a U2 album, whether they wanted it or not. We might also remember Apple remotely uninstalling apps from users iPhones in 2008. Both of these instances resulted in immense customer displeasure, for a variety of reasons. Neither of these incidents, however, created distrust.

Many users on Reddit have said that, following this breach of trust, they will be switching browsers, some of whom had just returned to Firefox following the recent release of Quantum. Others will be disabling the feature that Mozilla used, which it utilizes to test new features, indicating another sign of lost trust. One user said,

In the past I was fine with Mozilla's approach to telemetry and studies, making my browser available for occasional testing/experimenting/data collection to track down bugs or measure improvements or whatever is fine. This is not doing any of those things. This is an advertisement. This is an abuse of the telemetry and shield studies program. If I cannot trust Mozilla to use these tools responsibly I will have to disable them and recommend my friends and co-workers do the same.

A loss of trust here is not something that Mozilla needs, as they try to attract users to their new Quantum browser. If you cannot trust your browser to keep you safe, who can you trust online?

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