Firefox Descending

The latest is that Firefox is now down close to one-tenth of browser “market share”, right around Apple’s Safari. Google’s Chrome has eclipsed both it and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. But I’ve stuck with Firefox for a couple of reasons: it’s open source and respects my privacy. How Mozilla’s new “Suggested Tiles” feature shakes out could change that.

We all know Chrome is basically spyware, and Internet Explorer a veritable open channel for viruses, trojans and botnets. Safari just sucks at rendering pages.

Firefox has had its issues in the past with rendering, usability and user choice. But since it’s open source, Mozilla really has nowhere to hide when it comes to compromising privacy. If they were to do something untoward it wouldn’t take long for someone to discover it in their source code.

So last year when Mozilla decided to implement a new feature that potentially could funnel gobs of personally identifiable information (known in the business as PII) to commercial “partners” in return for much needed financial support, it didn’t take long for word to spread. Outrage ensued, Mozilla backed off, and we all went on our merry way.

Well, they’re at it again.

On September 10 Mozilla’s VP of Content Services posted First Wave of Suggested Tiles Partners Go Live.

The disconcerting thing about this post is that it fails to acknowledge the uproar the Tiles feature caused the first time around, although it and related posts do try to address many of the concerns raised.

The post tells us that Suggested Tiles have been in play since this past August, something they announced would happen in a May blog post, Providing a Valuable Platform for Advertisers, Content Publishers, and Users. The latter post also shows how users can opt out of the feature[1]. At the same time a post by Mozilla’s Content team detailed how user privacy would be protected, Putting Our Data Privacy Principles into Action.

The main question for me was now that both Mozilla and Google are bent on using their browsers as platforms for advertisers, do I just start defaulting to Chrome? But after thrashing about over it today I’ve come to the conclusion that the “early warning system” forced by Firefox’s source being publicly available for inspection still makes it a safer bet than Chrome.

[1] Open a new tab, click on the gear icon at the upper right corner, uncheck “Include suggested sites”. To be done with all vestiges of the feature also check “Show blank page”.

This entry was posted in Editorial, Security, System Administration, Web on by .

About phil

My name is Phil Lembo. In my day job I’m an enterprise IT architect for a leading distribution and services company. The rest of my time I try to maintain a semi-normal family life in the suburbs of Raleigh, NC. E-mail me at philipATlembobrothersDOTcom. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own and not those of my employers, past, present or future (except where I quote others, who will need to accept responsibility for their own rants).