Software companies use advertisements to sustain their businesses. While that is a fair practice, some advertisements can be invasive.
Mozilla’s Firefox has found a new way of invading the browser with an advertisement – through the address bar. How bad can this get?
The address bar is designed to offer “smart suggestions” to users but then once in a while, you might get “sponsored content” ads popping up on your face.
One thing I love about Firefox’s address bar is that you can literally search directly on many trusted sources directly through this channel by merely picking where you’d like the search to be done.
Google is the default search while other services includes Amazon, DuckDuckGo, Wikipedia and so forth.
However, you can sometimes get a suggestion of a sponsored product or links to make a purchase if you try to search for an item.
You can actually opt-in and out of this advertisement and in my opinion, it’s not so intrusive but the location is questionable to me.
After an upgrade to the latest version, I soon found out the suggested feature turned on by default.
From the privacy page, this can be turned off by navigating to the Settings > Privacy & security and scrolling down to Address Bar — Firefox Suggest and simply uncheck the box that has the label Include occasional sponsored suggestions.
Firefox says in the settings panel that allows the browser to occasionally show ads “helps fund Firefox development and optimization.” A Mozilla spokesperson also says Firefox Suggest serves sponsored content “through privacy-preserving services” that the company developed.
Theoretically, Firefox Suggest should collect no new data from your computer. Instead, it offers suggestions by processing data locally from your browsing history, open tabs, and a file Mozilla has placed that can offer up sponsored suggestions.
By default, the upgraded Firefox 93 includes the Contextual suggestions turned on by default despite the company previously saying its a opt-in for users and can work with the standard Firefox Suggestion feature which will send search queries and city-level location data to Mozilla for processing.
It’ll also log whether you clicked on a suggestion.
In terms of privacy concerns, Mozilla made it clear via its support documents that the Contextual suggestions includes privacy safeguards.
“When you see or click on a Firefox Suggest result, Mozilla collects and sends your search queries and the result you click on to our partners through a Mozilla-owned proxy service,” the company wrote in a support document. “The data we share with partners does not include personally identifying information and is only shared when you see or click on a suggestion.”
Mozilla also added that the system collects and convert any IP address it receives to a general location immediately right after it’s received and then remove the IP from all datasets and reports downstream.
As of now, the contextual suggestion is being turned on by default but the company’s plan as far as this is concerned is yet unknown.
Mozilla has however stated that it plans to add more partner to the Firefox suggest over time.
“Today our partners are Wikipedia and AdMarketplace and look forward to expanding our partnerships overtime to bring even more high-quality content to Firefox users,” a Mozilla spokesperson said in an email.