Bonum Certa Men Certa

Firefox Becomes as Morally Reprehensible as Apple, Facebook, or Uber

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

Blake Ross

Firefox has been going down the toilet for years.

According to Wikipedia, Blake Ross, one of the original creators of Firefox (it was a fork of the Mozilla Suite, which sort of continues in a badly broken state as Seamonkey….It’s no longer packaged by Debian or Ubuntu due to unfixed security flaws), ended up working at Facebook for several years, and then resigning to go work at Uber.

Both of these companies produce spyware for “smart” phones that run in the background and swipe information about you in real time.

They pretend that they are a social network and an alternative to calling a taxi. However, Facebook is constantly reading your contacts list and text messages, and finding out where you are at, at all times, accurate to within a few feet, if you use their app on your phone.

If you don’t use their app, Samsung now puts Facebook “system services” in their phones that, unless you find them and disable them, also run in the background and use your battery and network to spy on you.

Uber does many unethical things. Recently, it was even caught checking how much battery life you have on your phone. If it’s critically low, the app offers you a higher price for a ride.

Richard Stallman has many pages on why not to use Facebook, Uber, or Apple. In fact, Facebook accused me of spamming for posting links to Mr. Stallman’s website on Facebook.

I barely use Facebook. It grows worse by the minute and so I just don’t use it much anymore. I have an account, but it’s only because they wall off everything if you’re not logged in because they’re competing with the web.

The other creator of Firefox, David Hyatt, left almost right away to take a job offer at Apple to work on Safari. Apple spies and so do very nearly all of the apps. It’s not a “private” alternative to Android, in fact, nearly two-thirds have Google’s tracking libraries, and almost all have at least Apple’s.

If you’re thinking “What odd places for people who are Free Software developers to end up.”, then you’ve made the mistake of confusing Free Software with the watered down alternative, called “Open Source”.

The Free Software side is interested in giving the user freedom to do whatever they want with their computer, and freedom from this sort of abuse by proprietary software companies and their spyware.

The Open Source people are only interested in source code being shared around as a way to develop software.

While most Open Source licenses are Free, and while most Free Software licenses are Open Source, the difference is important.

Even Facebook, Apple, and Uber do some “Open Source”, and some of it even ends up in GNU/Linux distributions. You almost certainly use some right now if you use a GNU/Linux system. In this context, those bits of code are at least probably not hurting you.

But the force behind the “Open Source Movement” are giant corporations who want free labor, and who appeal to the vanity of programmers in order to get it. If you license your program permissively to get “more users”, then those “users” might, in fact, end up being Big Tech companies who roll your program into Windows or the Mac or Facebook, and then use it to attack people and help nation states to murder them, or at least take away their other human rights.

Firefox is not Free Software. It’s not even Open Source anymore.

It includes DRM software that nobody is allowed to study, which is proprietary, and licensed from Google. If you even did go to study it, you might be committing a felony in the United States, and so reporting security issues with it might land you in prison, as those issues may allow someone to bypass DRM.

Mozilla allows you to view the JavaScript source code that they claim sanitizes your keystrokes of personal information, before being sent to an advertising company. DuckDuckGo’s Privacy Policy (which they themselves ignore) mentions that nobody who has claimed to remove personal information has ever actually accomplished that.

In fact, AOL, which is what Mozilla was spun off from, was sued for dumping user search information they claimed to have anonymized, and didn’t.

This raises an interesting point by itself, however. Malware can be open source. Just because you understand how the software they abuse you with works, doesn’t make it non-abusive.

We also catch Mozilla openly lying about data collection and retention. Here’s what the description for Firefox in Flatpak form says.

Mozilla statement
Should read: “At Firefox, we troll people who expect privacy with our misinformation.”

Description of Firefox in the GNOME Software Center taken from Mozilla’s official Flatpak.

Notice the “We never collect or store your personal data.” part. We’ll come back to this.

When Bleeping Computer asked them for a statement on Firefox Suggest, which is a malicious software keylogger that is on by default and sends your typing to both your search engine, Mozilla, and an advertising company, here’s part of their response.

Mozilla quote

So Firefox doesn’t collect your data according to Mozilla, but according to Mozilla, it collects your data. Then, according to Mozilla, it doesn’t store it. Except, according to Mozilla it does. And then according to Mozilla, they don’t share it, except that according to Mozilla they do.

They probably don’t technically “sell” the data that they “share”. The whole point of the scheme is to drive ads, and they are selling your screen to advertisers, and then they “share” the data with the advertisers.

My God, they can’t even keep their lying straight anymore. Did Donald Trump retire and take a job there?

Then to add insult to injury, they now develop all of their software on Microsoft GitHub, which routinely disappears and censors software repositories due to DMCA trolls and various governments with poor human rights records.

Doesn’t Mozilla say they block tracking?

Yes, like Apple, Microsoft, and others, they are working very hard on blocking OTHERS from tracking you. It makes the data that they collect worth more, either internally to force their own ad and spyware network (Apple) on app developers, or to command a higher price for the personal data that they steal from you (Mozilla Firefox Suggest).

Almost every article about Firefox 93 agrees with my position that Suggest is adware driven by a keylogger.

When I searched for news posts about Firefox 93, about 70-80% seemed to be about turning off Firefox Suggest.

While you’d have to be insane to do anything in your browser with it on, the “platform” is growing more hostile to your privacy and freedom by the minute, and it will definitely continue to get worse from there.

Nobody at Mozilla has any scruples. This is a quick cash grab on the way out. Like DuckDuckGo, they spent years pretending to be some kind of an underdog with a “Spread Firefox campaign.”.

One of Spread Firefox’s most enthusiastic supporters was Nathan Lineback, who runs a site called ToastyTech, and it included pages and pages devoted to how godawful Internet Explorer was and how Firefox was the solution.

I emailed him for comment about this, noting that Firefox has been slowly morphing itself into DRM with spyware and adware that also has a web browser in it. Here’s his reply.

Yea, I’ve been inches away from nuking my “firefox is good” pages. I’ve been sticking with a “New Moon” port for Windows XP, but lots of sites are breaking things for no good reason. I remember when one of the advantages was that Firefox was available for almost every OS out there. Crap like DRM and all of this compiling scripts to assembly makes porting that much harder. It really hurts because I used to actively promote Firefox. I’ve still got a bunch of stickers and stuff that the Mozilla folks sent me because I participated in their SpreadFirefox event for Firefox 3. I get so tired of not having control over technology I use. And even more tired of the attitude that I should just put up with it all like some kind of cow. Anyway, thanks for visiting my site.

Nathan Lineback, ToastyTech

He had posted to his rants page, previously, about another user who was fed up with Microsoft Edge, which is only slightly ahead of Firefox in overall nastiness at this point.

Edge now has a “feature” that tells you when you’re shopping for something and a big box retailer like Walmart or Amazon has a price that’s like $1-2 cheaper. When you click on it, there’s a GUID tracker that Microsoft uses in order to get part of the sale as a commission.

I’m guessing that “Firefox Shopping Assistant” isn’t too far away at this point. They’re probably just arguing about how much you’re worth if you’re part of the 3.5% and falling that still uses Firefox.

However, in this article, I have demonstrated that Mozilla has never been led by people who were diametrically opposed to spyware, human rights abuses, and surveillance capitalism. Firefox is the enemy.

At this point, they pitch a VPN, but with all of the shady stuff that’s been going on in there, would you even feel safe about using it?

I wouldn’t.

Firefox new tab
What goes on behind the scenes is worse than you think. Mozilla is selling you to advertisers. Here’s where they can pay to target you. Source: Buy Sell Ads. From the page: "This audience is always looking for new solutions to their technical problems. If you can convert them, they'll undoubtedly tell their friends and coworkers about your product. The thing is, knowing where they came from isn't always straightforward."

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