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Firefox Advertising Mozilla Privacy

Ads Based On Browsing History Are Coming To All Firefox Users 531

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla has announced plans to launch a feature called "Suggested Tiles," which will provide sponsored recommendations to visit certain websites when other websites show up in the user's new tab page. The tiles will begin to show up for beta channel users next week, and the company is asking for feedback. For testing purposes, users will only see Suggested Tiles "promoting Firefox for Android, Firefox Marketplace, and other Mozilla causes." It's not yet known what websites will show up on the tiles when the feature launches later this summer. The company says, "With Suggested Tiles, we want to show the world that it is possible to do relevant advertising and content recommendations while still respecting users’ privacy and giving them control over their data."
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Ads Based On Browsing History Are Coming To All Firefox Users

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  • bye (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:42AM (#49750265)

    good bye Firefox. last nail in the coffin. I wanted to like it. I did. I still dislike Chrome's UI and the fact Google owns it.

    Crap maybe I'll switch to Opera it's actually really really nice now as a UI.

    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      I like Opera for how gracefully it handles Unity, which Chrome seems to have a bitch of a time over. Chrome, for its memory leakage, handles HTML5 active content nicely and Flash... actually I don't know, since I've disabled Flash. Opera for me doesn't do HTML5 or Flash very well, but again Flash isn't an issue since I've disabled it in Opera as well.

    • Re:bye (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:51AM (#49750387)

      As a Firefox Nightly user, I've already had to deal with the spam tiles. The fix is to install a 3rd party speed dial.

      I use Super Start [mozilla.org]. It's nothing fancy, but it's clean and gets the job done.

      • by Jaysyn ( 203771 )

        I wonder if New Tab Tools [mozilla.org] will ignore this junk?

      • Re:bye (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @11:37AM (#49751515)

        my 'fix' has been to stop upgrading, about 2 or even more years ago.

        yes, it has bugs and probably security issues, but I deal with that instead of dealing with more bullshit from moz.

        really - a web browser is a little bit like a flashlight; it has a job to do, its clearly defined and its not hard to solve the problem. I don't need a flashlight with 'accessories' on it or with 'helpful advertising'. I simply need it to work, stay stable and not change every damned time someone has an itch to change-just-for-changes-sake.

        I won't give up what I have, but I have stopped upgrading a long time ago.

        • by byuu ( 1455609 )
          You and me both. I'm stuck on FF28, which is the last version with a sane UI.

          Due to security concerns, I'm probably going to have to start doing all my web browsing inside of a VM soon.

          Really wish Opera were open source. Vivaldi looks like even more of a trainwreck UI-wise.
      • Re:bye (Score:4, Informative)

        by Blue Stone ( 582566 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:29PM (#49753243) Homepage Journal

        Also on the top right of a new tab is a settings 'cog' where you can choose "Enhanced", "Classic" or "Blank" so you can easily turn this off.

        The details are fairly straightforward and are laid out on this page [mozilla.org].

        Some choice exerpts to soothe the paniced minds:

        Easy to control

        Tiles are easily pinned, moved around or removed using simple drag-and-drop and close interfaces. If you do not want to see any Tiles, you can deactivate them completely in two clicks through the new tab gear control.
        Respects your privacy

        What data is being collected?

        Mozilla collects Tiles related data such as number of clicks, impressions and Tile specific data (e.g. position and size of grid) to help Mozilla determine how frequently the Tile has been seen or interacted with, as well as your IP address (collected by Firefox, quickly translated into a region code and then deleted).
        What data is collected when I opt out?

        No data is collected when a user deactivates the Enhanced Tiles experience.

    • Wasn't the fact that Opera when it released a free version, use to have a spot for Opera based adds. Which was one reason why it never really got any serious interests.

    • Re: bye (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:07AM (#49750585)

      I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but in this case I have to ask, is there a clandestine effort underway to utterly destroy Firefox, and maybe even Mozilla, from the inside?

      It's like every decision made over the past several years has been designed to alienate Firefox's remaining users, without bringing in any new users.

      I'm talking of the unwanted UI changes. Then there were the release frequency changes that broke extensions every release for a long time. Then there were more unwanted UI changes, cumulating in the despised Australis UI. Then there was the switch to Yahoo for searches. There were the grid advertisements. Then there was the mandatory HTTPS proposal. Now there's this nonsense. All of this is being done when there are still many bugs to fix, some of them existing for years.

      It's just one bad thing after another, even when Firefox users loudly object, and even with Firefox's ever-dropping share of the market.

      I'd like to just blame it on ineptitude or incompetence, but these decisions are unbelievable, even in those cases. I just can't get over how obviously terrible so many of these decisions have been.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You have to remember, Mozilla isn't run by people who understand business. They are just a group of mediocre programmers with short attention spans and no experience.

        It's like programmer art. The programmer himself thinks it's pretty good, but any objective viewer will obviously be able to see that it's amateur at best and utter crap at worst.

      • by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but in this case I have to ask, is there a clandestine effort underway to utterly destroy Firefox, and maybe even Mozilla, from the inside?

        It's like every decision made over the past several years has been designed to alienate Firefox's remaining users, without bringing in any new users.

        Hanlon's razor says

        Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

        Of course that doesn't mean malice and stupidity can't walk hand-in-hand, and I'm pretty sure that's what's happening at Mozilla. I wouldn't be surprised at all if there were a few bad actors, but there are dozens more that simply suffer from stupidity and lack of foresight. Every "ux expert" and "architect" seems to think they're god's own gift to mankind, and Mozilla is packed to the brim with those. Combine them with some ivory towers and you can pretty easily explain the current sa

        • Re: bye (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @11:43AM (#49751597) Homepage Journal

          Every "ux expert" and "architect" seems to think they're god's own gift to mankind, and Mozilla is packed to the brim with those.

          The main problem is that Mozilla is filled with project managers and senior devs who LISTEN to the UX 'experts' and let them drive the agenda. Why they do is beyond me. Perhaps it is a plot by Google or perhaps they are just morons.

      • Re: bye (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @02:43PM (#49753343) Homepage

        I don't think you have to come up with that many conspiracy theories, Mozilla's "problem" is that they won. They broke Microsoft's monopoly, made HTML/CSS properly standardized and together with KHTML/WebKit/Blink some 80% use an open source renderer though many use it in a closed source binary. Microsoft would be laughed at if they tried any new proprietary extensions and for the rest the implementation details are all in the open.

        I'm talking of the unwanted UI changes. Then there were the release frequency changes that broke extensions every release for a long time. Then there were more unwanted UI changes, cumulating in the despised Australis UI. Then there was the switch to Yahoo for searches. There were the grid advertisements. Then there was the mandatory HTTPS proposal. Now there's this nonsense. All of this is being done when there are still many bugs to fix, some of them existing for years.

        Their problem can be summed up in two words: "Now what?" and it turns out they didn't really have any other goal in common than slaying the dragon and now the dragon's dead. Some UX designers get to make an art project. Some cowboy coders thinks more releases is better. Some will do anything to get away from the reliance on their biggest competitor. Some security nuts get to go overboard. Some want to go after Android/Chrome OS with Firefox OS, but this time they're not competing against proprietary and neglected shovelware and barking up a tree Ubuntu has made essentially no progress on.

        Let's face it, Mozilla mainly won because Microsoft was trying to keep the web from competing with local applications so they could sell Windows licenses, they got to the head of the pack and grinded it to a halt. They didn't want to compete, they wanted to put a spanner in the works for as long as possible. It annoyed many and gave Firefox enormous amounts of goodwill even when it didn't work properly, out of spite for Microsoft people kept using it and pushing for sites to support it. They don't have a clue on how to compete with someone that puts up a fight, which is their second biggest problem.

    • Re:bye (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Translation Error ( 1176675 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:36AM (#49750873)
      Anyone who's a fan of Opera back when it was still innovative and highly configurable (way back in version 12) might want to keep an eye on Vivaldi [vivaldi.com], a browser being created by a number of people who left the Opera team after the change in focus. It's based on the Blink engine and the developers are working on incorporating many of the features of Opera 12. It still has a way to go, as it's currently still at the technical preview stage.
    • Re:bye (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:40AM (#49750911)

      a little harsh when all you need to do is change preference in about:config:

      browser.newtab.url to about:blank

      done and done. the whole 'smart' newtab page is gone for good. that is one of the very nice things about firefox....... configurability..

      • Re:bye (Score:4, Interesting)

        by byuu ( 1455609 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @12:47PM (#49752231)
        Which about:config value can I tweak to turn off Australis and have normal navigation+refresh+home buttons, and tabs under the URL bar? Which one will let me turn off download history (without killing my browser history as well)? Which one will let me show the compact one-line URL bar dropdown results? Which one will let me install unsigned extensions again? Which one will let me use HTTP/2 without TLS, as the RFC defines?
    • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

      it'll take what, maybe a day?, before there's at least half a dozen addons to fix it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:42AM (#49750273)

    Why? Why do you rape us with this kind of shit? Is fucking with the UI (making the goddamn options menu a ugly mess of a webpage) and adding DRM codecs not enough?

    Jesus christ on a stick. You can't find a way to suicide your market share faster.

  • How about ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:46AM (#49750323) Homepage

    "With Suggested Tiles, we want to show the world that it is possible to do relevant advertising and content recommendations while still respecting users' privacy and giving them control over their data."

    How about no? How about some of us don't want advertising? How about you better give a mechanism to disable this crap?

    What part of "not interested in your damned ads" is hard to understand?

    • Re:How about ... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Mr. Droopy Drawers ( 215436 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:02AM (#49750525)

      Provide a method to turn this off and I'll keep using Firefox. If not, I may need to like Chrome more...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        ..because chrome doesn't collect browsing data for ad delivery? lol

        I guess the lesson we're leaning is: keeping quiet about behavior is indeed better than being open.

        • But Google isn't keeping quiet about it, either. Everyone knows Google makes their money from sharing user's habits with 3rd parties and targeting advertising.
    • Re:How about ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mrt_2394871 ( 1174545 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:05AM (#49750557)

      How about you better give a mechanism to disable this crap?

      Click on the "gear" icon (top right of the new tab page)
      Clear the "Include suggested sites" box

    • by Anonymous Coward

      While I agree with the sentiment, what would be “a better mechanism” to disable this crap? The UI to disable this will be 2 clicks on the new tab page, or if you prefer, 1 pref to toggle.

      There are many reasons not to like this, but don't think they could have made it any easier to disable.

      IMO, the tie-up with Pocket is much more damning for Mozilla's reputation. They've just plain given up on trying to make the web open and fair. The Mozilla Manifesto means nothing now.

    • Re:How about ... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dmgxmichael ( 1219692 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:57AM (#49751071) Homepage

      Like it or not advertising shapes the world we are in. Where do you think the million dollar super-star athlete salaries come from? Advertising. Free programming? Advertising. I can go on. It's incredibly unlikely you don't own at least one thing you either got for free due to advertising or was subsidized by advertising.

      No one likes advertising, but everyone wants free stuff. Why do you think advertising is attached to free stuff? Who do you think is paying for the free stuff?

      Companies that pay advertisers want a return on their money spent. That's what all the tracking is about - to justify the money spent. I can understand them wanting to get that data, but I also understand not wanting to be tracked and targeted. Even if by an impersonal computer, it's creepy.

      Full disclosure here - I work for an advertiser. And here's hilarity for you - nearly every computer in this department runs ad-block to stop viruses or who knows what else from getting into the system. There's a lot of abuse out there by the unscrupulous to the downright criminal "one simple trick scam" idiots.

      There's a lot of problems with the current system. If you can devise a better system for all parties there's a lot of money in it for you, go for it.

      But it's two-year-old level childish thinking at it's finest to think you can get all the free and subsidized stuff out here in the world without the advertising that pays for it. Sure, you can block it - but if the blocking ever rises to statistically significant levels then the revenue model will be forced to change, and probably not for the better.

      • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

        No one likes advertising, but everyone wants free stuff. Why do you think advertising is attached to free stuff? Who do you think is paying for the free stuff?

        WE are paying for the advertising and the free stuff. I only saw figures from early 2000s, when the total amount spent on advertising in the US averaged out at about $20k per citizen.

        That's a HUGE advertising tax that we're all paying. And what do we get from this tax? Better healthcare? Job security? Vacations and time off? No, what we get is to subsidize the parasites working in the advertising industry, and we enable them to force unwanted ads onto our eyeballs, and we get a few tiny geegaws thrown our w

    • My mind is trying to wrap itself around what sort of person over at Mozilla sits around and thinks:

      "Hmmmm, what could be our next feature to win over the folks using Chrome or IE . . . . something to really get folks excited . . . . "
      . . . time passes . . .
      "OH I KNOW ! How about MORE advertising !

      Because obviously, the internet doesn't have enough of it already :| Brilliant . . . .

      Dear Mozilla ( and the rest of you browser developers while we're on the subject ):

      We develop and install things like Adbloc

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:47AM (#49750327)

    Remember when the Netscape web browser cost $40? Remember buying one? Me neither.

    Looks like it's time to start uninstalling Firefox across all computers...

  • And that might be the push needed for me to try out IceCat (formerly IceWeasel) https://www.gnu.org/software/g... [gnu.org]
  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:48AM (#49750337)

    How is taking our browser history to serve ads respecting our privacy?

    A search suggests they made $311 million in 2012, how much money is actually required to run Mozilla?

    • That's the most interesting question actually. Mozilla is doing just fine, so why the need for advertisements, which generally are annoying?
    • For what it's worth: they don't take it. Your browser tracks your history (as it has always done, unless you've turned that off), and makes the decisions of which adverts to display locally.

      Mozilla can attempt to infer your browsing history from which adverts you load (and I've seen discussions about trying to reduce the amount of information they receive, although I don't know how much of that actually made it to the implementation), but they don't get a copy of it. Only your local browser gets that.

  • So this "feature" can be disabled by the user?

    Or should we just disable auto-update and stick with version 38.0.1

    • by Noryungi ( 70322 )

      See above: enable "Do Not Track" in the Firefox Options/Privacy tab and you are (hopefully) in the clear.

      • Do Not Track is useless garbage.

        It doesn't stop any tracking. It's a voluntary [zdnet.com] program which doesn't mean what you think it means:

        Even if you have Do Not Track turned on, that information will be collected and stored and used to create a profile of you that may or may not be accurate. That profile can be used by credit agencies, big corporations, and health insurance companies to make decisions about you that can literally affect your life and livelihood.

        And it's not just the tracking industry that is igno

  • WTF (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:53AM (#49750405)
    How can they be respecting my privacy seeing that such a feature would require that they have access to my browsing history. Even if (in theory) they aren't downloading my browsing history and it is my browser making the requests they can deduce what sites I must be browsing to request such "suggestions."

    So if I mostly go to sites that involve sex with bowls of pasta and my browser were to request suggestions involving bowls of pasta porn it isn't much of stretch for them to guess what kind of sites I go to.

    This shit pisses me off. I already use a VPN to keep my ISP from this sort of interference. Now it is my damn browser ratting on me.

    How about a big fat no. Firefox already has a dropping market share and now it will drop by at least one more(me).

    Just to be clear as to how much I value my privacy and don't want tracking. I use a VM for all services that I log into that goes through a separate VPN. Thus my day to day surfing is 100% separate from anything that has any logins. So any cookies/IP address that facebook, google, etc might have handed to me aren't available during my general web surfing.

    I break zero laws yet I still want nobody tracking me as is my right.
  • I read "targeted ads". But are those new ads, or it replace the old ones?
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @09:59AM (#49750497)

    I delete all history and cookies and cache each time I log out. Although I like the technical aspect of tracing me and showing advertisement, as a consumer and user I detest it.

    I detest it more than I like it. Or like Banksy says:
    People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply youâ(TM)re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.

    You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

    Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. Itâ(TM)s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

    You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially donâ(TM)t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, donâ(TM)t even start asking for theirs.

  • On me, at least, it has the effect of making me less inclined to buy the advertised product.
  • "With Suggested Tiles, we want to show the world that it is possible to do relevant advertising and content recommendations while still respecting users' privacy and giving them control over their data."

    First the advertisements will be optional. Then they won't be.

    .
    How long before the few remaining Firefox users realize that Mozilla is behaving like any other money-grabbing corporation?

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:07AM (#49750593) Homepage
    Mozilla 1998: we want the internet to remain a free and open forum and in this spirit align our software to freedom and the user. the users choice and voice will be come top priority in our products, and we will write the mozilla 10 point manifesto to ensure we always take this into account.
    Mozilla 2015: We want the internet to make payments on our car loans and help achieve the goal of replacing all 4 tires on the bentley twice a year. We believe, legitimately believe, that users want tiles to show them advertisements. we think they like having a video chat app in their browser and we want to make sure corporations understand what is possible when targeted advertising and a morally bankrupt moneytrain brand come together to abuse their users trust and appreciation. We are completely deaf to the fact that adblock and noscript exist and are extremely popular plugins for our hobbled shitwreck advertising platform masquerading as a browser. Hail satan.
  • Banner Ads, Pop-up ads, Tile Ads, whatever you want to call them, all need to go away. Ads are where a majority of the code that inflict malware on unsuspecting users comes from. Web marketing firms receive thousands, if not millions of new ads all the time. Do you really think they have someone or even a group of people that sit and look thru the underlying code of every single ad they receive? From the day that ads started showing up on sites I have refused to click on them or found tools to block the
  • by CimmerianX ( 2478270 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:26AM (#49750769)

    Palemoon is branched off of Mozilla. I use it and it works well.

    There are lots of options out there... you don't really need to stick with the Firefox vs chrome vs opera arguements.

  • There was a time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CHK6 ( 583097 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:43AM (#49750939)
    It's hard to fathom, but there was a time when websites had zero ads in them. Just the information you were looking for. It was wonderful. There were no cookies or tracking to think about. It was pleasant to traverse the paths you came across.

    But then Netscape came in and poo-poo'ed it all up. The neighborhood never recovered and websites look like a collage of Las Vegas billboards strewn about nagging and pestering you about crap you don't want and if you wanted it you would have searched for it in the first place.

    Now the ads are like digital lice that pop up in mobile applications and the only cure it to pay for them to go away.

    But I still remember those good old days.
  • expect it to get worse.
  • Go SeaMonkey! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @10:49AM (#49751009)

    http://www.seamonkey-project.org/

    All the web-rendering goodness of FireFox. Stable user interface. No suggested tiles. Available for Windows/Mac/Linux.

  • I don't know any _user_ that wants this. This pretty much guarantees that I won't have Firefox anywhere.
  • Never really found a use for them. I have every new tab and window show up as a blank page so this won't bother me at all though I'm sad to see them take this approach. It appears that they are trying to do everything in their power to alienate what users they have remaining. Might have to start looking into a good alternative browser for the Mac.

  • by Ken_g6 ( 775014 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @11:04AM (#49751143) Homepage

    Firefox gets its revenue from ads. Whether directly or indirectly, through first Google, then Yahoo, and now directly. They never seem to have enough revenue.

    Wikipedia gets its revenue from donations. They occasionally have a beg bar at the top. They refuse to accept advertising. They always seem to have too much revenue.

    I, for one, would much prefer to have an occasional beg bar in my Firefox and no ads, rather than ads and no beg bar.

  • by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @12:05PM (#49751821)

    All the people complaining are missing the point: Adverstising is inevitable, and today advertising comes with massive privacy violations (especially tracking). Mozilla is developing a way to enable advertising without the privacy violations. If they succeed, imagine the dramatic increase in your privacy if vendors can deliver ads without tracking.

    From TFA:

    Mozilla is making a bold promise. âoeWith Suggested Tiles, we want to show the world that it is possible to do relevant advertising and content recommendations while still respecting usersâ(TM) privacy and giving them control over their data.â

    And this is not just superficial security; they have really thought it through. For one thing, your browser history and the analytics that determine what ads to display stay on your computer. For more examples:

    Because delivering such content to Firefox users can result in privacy issues, Mozilla has taken three steps to limit what information it collects:

    1. A system of rules in place to limit what Mozilla or its partners can infer about users based on Tiles data. Each interest category must have a minimum of 5 URLs. Interest categories are constructed such that no single URL is significantly more likely to appear in a userâ(TM)s browsing history than any other URL in the category. Suggested Tiles also cannot be triggered based on combinations of URLs in the interest category.

    2. While Tiles partners can suggest URLs to include, the companyâ(TM)s Content Services team actually defines the interest categories. A separate role on the team, which isnâ(TM)t involved in creating the interest categories, approves the final categories. Furthermore, interest categories are publicly available, stating the label of the bucket and the collection of URLs specified against it. The current interest categories are available in the source code here.

    3. IP addresses are discarded within 7 days of collection and no other unique IDs associated with Tiles are collected. Only one Suggested Tile is included per new tab page, which prevents impression data from providing a more complete portrait of the userâ(TM)s history. Reports containing aggregate impression and click data (number of impressions, clicks, and so on) are only shared with partners. No individual data is provided to advertising clients.

    For more, see these lnks:
    https://blog.mozilla.org/priva... [mozilla.org]
    https://blog.mozilla.org/advan... [mozilla.org]

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