Bonum Certa Men Certa

Mozilla Firefox Takes Another Step in the Direction of Being Malware With “Firefox Suggest”

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

Opening: Yesterday I was surfing the web when I found out that LKML.org, a centralized place to see what’s going on in Linux kernel development, was attempting to load an ad script from a company called “BuySellAds dot com”.

When I investigated the company in more detail, I found that there was an entire page where they plot with some of the titans of the web industry to track and psychologically manipulate people.



One such partnership was Brave. Apparently, this company is pushing Brave’s “ethical ads” from behind the scenes, and another was Mozilla.



"One such partnership was Brave. Apparently, this company is pushing Brave’s “ethical ads” from behind the scenes, and another was Mozilla."It said that they feed ads into “Pocket”, which is where the “Sponsored Content” (including from Big Oil companies like Exxon) keep popping up in the Firefox New Tab page, and now in your address bar if you live in the US (under the guise of Firefox Suggest).



Well, what I suggest is that Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker does with Firefox Suggest and Pocket is probably anatomically impossible, but that’s outside the scope of this post.



It sickens me, that a great piece of software that I used from its inception in 2002 (pre-releases), and even before that (as Mozilla Suite, and before Mozilla, as the proprietary Netscape suite) has gone and done this as a cash grab on the way down.



Each release, there’s more stuff to turn off, and you have to remember to do all of that every time you install it somewhere.



"Each release, there’s more stuff to turn off, and you have to remember to do all of that every time you install it somewhere."There’s like 5 different settings (something like that) to fully disable DRM and keep it from coming back on or demanding it. That’s pretty bad when many of the sites using it are using it not for DRM, but as a fingerprinting attack.



Firefox ceased being Free and Open Source Software when distributed according to the Mozilla Trademark policies long ago, when they enabled Google DRM by default and pestered the user if they turned it off and then didn’t do some “about:config fu” to make sure it stayed off and disappeared from the GUI, but with Cloudflare DNS (a privacy hazard that OpenBSD patched to turn off!), Pocket’s Sponsored Crap, and Firefox Suggest, Firefox has not only straddled the line of what I consider to be “malware”, but has finally crossed it.



Perhaps there’s something very wrong with Debian for not going back to calling it “IceWeasel” and patching this stuff out of the source code so that it can’t come on. They are now in abeyance of their Debian Free Software Guidelines all so they can ship malware and call it Firefox.



You can perhaps forgive, under these circumstances, that some GNU/Linux distributions are throwing in the towel with Firefox, which doesn’t perform very well and uses gobs and gobs of RAM to perform the tasks, and are shipping some other browser.



Linux Mint spins are even putting in Vivaldi. And, if you frame it as a choice between Vivaldi and Firefox, I’d say Firefox is even worse than Vivaldi at this point, though Vivaldi doesn’t pretend to be open source like Firefox does, and they don’t beg for donations while they sell you down the river to adtechs like Mozilla does.



"Firefox ceased being Free and Open Source Software when distributed according to the Mozilla Trademark policies long ago, when they enabled Google DRM by default and pestered the user if they turned it off and then didn’t do some “about:config fu” to make sure it stayed off and disappeared from the GUI, but with Cloudflare DNS (a privacy hazard that OpenBSD patched to turn off!), Pocket’s Sponsored Crap, and Firefox Suggest, Firefox has not only straddled the line of what I consider to be “malware”, but has finally crossed it."What Mozilla fails to understand, obviously, is that by pissing off users into leaving, they not only have less who will stay and drive “ad hits” for them, but they’ll see a further collapse in their search royalty value to Google, and incoming revenue will fall faster than had they just left it alone.



Furthermore, by letting this incompetent twit remain as CEO and firing the engineers while leaving a “Global Chief Diversity Officer” and other dead weight so that they can be a political party, development of the browser’s underpinnings lags while they fritter away valuable capital towards these nutjobs.



Well, enough was enough so….



I finally figured out the dependency matrix to get Debian to allow me to apt purge firefox-esr from my Debian 11 system without trying to take out GNOME metapackages and the X server.



It turns out that I had to give up on using the GNOME Web flatpak from FlatHub, because it collides with the Stable version from Debian. So I backed that out, and deleted its settings and cache under the .var folder hierarchy, and put the epiphany-browser package back in.



"...on a clean install, Firefox Suggest is on by default and doesn’t even ask whether the user wants ads or a keylogger malware in their address bar."As long as that’s there, and those internationalization and LibreOffice Help Packs and foreign spell checkers and such that I removed the other day are gone, you can remove firefox-esr and the system won’t complain that you need a web browser.



It seems that Apt only wants to remove the gnome metapackages and xorg (Jean-Baptist…Emanuel….Zorg! Sorry.) if epiphany-browser is not already installed. If it is, it’ll shut up and let you get rid of Firefox.



Now you can also reclaim some disk space by removing .mozilla and all of the .mozilla and .firefox stuff under your Home folder (it’s all hidden but unhiding it with Ctrl+H and then using the finder is easy enough). In my case, I don’t use Thunderbird either, so I got rid of its stuff and now it’s just GNOME Web and Evolution.



Mozilla lies and says Firefox Suggest is off by default and that it is opt-in.



In the Bleeping Computer article about Firefox Suggest, which also notes Firefox’s dwindling market share (they went from being almost half of all web users at their peak to being only slightly more popular than Vivaldi, and still falling), they say that in their own tests and user reports, on a clean install, Firefox Suggest is on by default and doesn’t even ask whether the user wants ads or a keylogger malware in their address bar.



I installed the Firefox 93 Flatpak to find out myself. Mozilla even builds it and uploads the builds to Flathub, so they are official. Firefox Suggest was on by default, no message asking me if I wanted it.



When Ubuntu briefly implemented a keylogger that sent your Shell searches to Amazon in their now-abandoned Unity Shell, Richard Stallman called Ubuntu malware.



In its default configuration, Firefox not only sends everything you type into the address bar to Google (even though you can turn that off and split searches into a different box), but also to Mozilla, and Mozilla’s advertisers. This is certainly malware.



"How is it that Debian says the firmware to run my wifi, SSD, and graphics chip isn’t allowed (in the official image, which will lead some people to think Debian is broken and not bother figuring out why….while others have to know there’s a real installer that has firmware that is semi-hidden) but Widevine DRM blobs and a malicious keylogger in Firefox are fine?"How much longer will “Free” operating systems like Debian continue ignoring their own Free Software Guidelines to package this? It already had a grabber that’s on by default to download Google DRM blobs, and now this.



It’s bad enough that Fedora chucked its own Free Software policy out the door when IBM took them over, and started pushing Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Edge.



How is it that Debian says the firmware to run my wifi, SSD, and graphics chip isn’t allowed (in the official image, which will lead some people to think Debian is broken and not bother figuring out why….while others have to know there’s a real installer that has firmware that is semi-hidden) but Widevine DRM blobs and a malicious keylogger in Firefox are fine?



Sounds like someone at Debian should explain this.



As an aside, Mozilla is also considering changing the default search engine to Bing.



Every few years, they come in and decide which crappy privacy-violating mess with worse search results than Google to switch all their users to as part of a cynical ploy to ultimately get Google back to the table for more money.



Microsoft has never offered any browser vendor more money than Google, which is why Google is the default search engine on almost every browser, and the iPhone/Safari, even though Apple pretends they’re bitter enemies (over 60% of Apple iOS apps have Google tracking libraries in them).



I’m not a big fan of Google, but Bing is much worse. Instead of Google violating your privacy, it will be Microsoft, and then the search results often won’t even be usable.



When will Mozilla learn to stop manipulating its remaining users? Never?



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