We’ve grown accustomed to apps and even operating systems collecting data about usage and trends and sending it back to the appropriate mothership. What’s more unusual (but very much appreciated) is when a company provides a heads-up about its collection plans, something Mozilla communicated last week for Firefox.
Mozilla engineer Georg Fritzsche penned a proposal for the organisation’s approach to data collection on Google Groups. According to Fritzsche, Mozilla wants to “better understand how people use our product to improve their experience”.
Note that Firefox already has a way to opt-in for data collection. What Fritzsche is suggesting is an opt-out version that will record “more sensitive data, like top sites users visit and how features perform on specific sites”.
To help preserve privacy and deliver more “unbiased data”, Mozilla wants to use Google’s RAPPOR, which injects randomness into the collection process to disconnect information from specific users. An explanation of how this works can be found on Google’s Research blog.
Rather than deploy something immediately to all users, Mozilla will run an “opt-out … study to validate [its] implementation of RAPPOR. This study will collect the value for users’ home
page (eTLD+1) for a randomly selected group of our release population”.
Fritzsche writes that the study won’t go into effect until mid-September, so we probably won’t here more about the organisation’s plan for a couple of months.
Usage of Differential Privacy & RAPPOR [Google Groups, via gHacks]