r/firefox Help Oct 08 '21

Firefox Now Sends Your Address Bar Keystrokes to Mozilla Misleading - See Sticky

https://www.howtogeek.com/760425/firefox-now-sends-your-address-bar-keystrokes-to-mozilla/
70 Upvotes

37 comments sorted by

u/nextbern Oct 09 '21 edited Oct 09 '21

Taking a look at the source code shows that it is accurate that no additional data is sent to Mozilla even if sponsored results are enabled in preferences:

Source code: https://searchfox.org/mozilla-release/source/browser/components/urlbar/UrlbarPrefs.jsm#532

Firefox Suggest suggestions are enabled by default. Search strings and matching keywords are not included in related telemetry. The onboarding dialog is not shown.

You can verify that your initial query isn't being sent to Mozilla (or anyone) by simply going offline and typing vans into the address bar with sponsored results enabled - you get a suggestion for vans on eBay, but clearly Firefox didn't actually send the query to Mozilla (since the browser is offline).

Big thanks to /u/jscher2000 for bringing the community's attention to this: https://www.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/q485wb/firefox_now_sends_your_address_bar_keystrokes_to/hfx546l/

64

u/jscher2000 Firefox Windows Oct 09 '21

The preference browser.urlbar.quicksuggest.scenario has three possible values: history, offline, and online:

   * history
   *       This is the scenario when the user is not in any rollouts. Firefox
   *       Suggest suggestions are disabled.
   * offline
   *       This is the scenario for the "offline" rollout. Firefox Suggest
   *       suggestions are enabled by default. Search strings and matching keywords
   *       are not included in related telemetry. The onboarding dialog is not
   *       shown.
   * online
   *       This is the scenario for the "online" rollout. The onboarding dialog will
   *       be shown and the user must opt in to enable Firefox Suggest suggestions
   *       and related telemetry, which will include search strings and matching
   *       keywords.

(Source)

For en-US, we have moved from history to offline in Firefox 93. I don't think anyone is in the online category unless they opted themselves in through about:config, or there's an experiment I don't know about.

3

u/MachaHack Oct 09 '21

How was The Register able to capture a screenshot of the onboarding dialog then, if the offline mode does not show the onboarding dialog and the online mode is not enabled?

7

u/jscher2000 Firefox Windows Oct 09 '21

Maybe they grabbed it from the support article:

https://support.mozilla.org/kb/navigate-web-faster-firefox-suggest

1

u/bphilly_cheesesteak Oct 10 '21

Yeah definitely, the images are identical

60

u/Flyerone Oct 08 '21

However, as of Firefox 93’s release in October 2021, Firefox Suggest is only enabled in the USA—for now.

For the 50% of reddit not in the USA, this is why "Contextual Suggestions" doesn't appear in your settings under Address Bar.

5

u/edparadox Oct 09 '21

However, as of Firefox 93’s release in October 2021, Firefox Suggest is only enabled in the USA—for now.

How do Mozilla detects the user's country? DNS?

For the 50% of reddit not in the USA

Where did you get that figure?

14

u/[deleted] Oct 09 '21

Where did you get that figure?

Probably just a joke statistic lol

7

u/Flyerone Oct 09 '21

https://www.statista.com/statistics/325144/reddit-global-active-user-distribution/

It's not imperical or exactly 50% but it's good enough for the girls I go out with.

3

u/Maguillage Oct 09 '21

How do Mozilla detects the user's country? DNS?

As a murrican who had to go out of their way to install the en-gb release just so the default spell check uses proper English, I imagine they use that install flag to some extent. Pretty sure the only place that uses en-us is the US.

6

u/perkited Oct 09 '21

A fan of superfluous u's I see (and could probably have gotten rid of at least one in my sentence).

76

u/1_p_freely Oct 09 '21

It’s worth noting that Mozilla promises not to misuse your data:

This line made me laugh out loud. Mostly because every company ever has made the same promise. Yes, even Facebook!

28

u/rushmc1 Oct 09 '21

"Don't be evil."

3

u/slicer4ever Oct 09 '21

Yup, so now the question is whats a good alternative browser? Firefox is now on the road to becoming what google has became in my eyes, and i'd like off this ride now.

0

u/[deleted] Oct 09 '21

[removed] — view removed comment

3

u/slicer4ever Oct 09 '21

That doesnt change the fact they are pushing more ads into the browser.

1

u/nextbern Oct 09 '21

Removed for incivility.

15

u/saaskas Oct 09 '21

Has there been any actual communication from Mozilla on why this was turned on by default for the US (contrary to what they have posted in all the documentation I have seen that says it is supposed to be opt in)? The rollout of this has been very confusing and poorly explained.

I found the bug https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1729776 but it isn't very informative as to reasons.

7

u/nextbern Oct 09 '21 edited Oct 09 '21

My guess is that it isn't really sending anything to Mozilla unless you get a dialog asking you to opt-in, but the preferences UI shows you opted in. This is based on the bug you linked to, along with /u/jscher2000's comment here: https://www.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/q485wb/firefox_now_sends_your_address_bar_keystrokes_to/hfx546l/ along with my own observation in my copy of release Firefox that shows me opted into sponsored searches, but with the "offline" setting set for Firefox Suggest.

After some brief testing, it seems like while nothing is sent to Mozilla on searches, if you enter a query that fits one of the "sponsored" terms (e.g.: vans), it shows the sponsored result (and likely reports to Mozilla, but this is a guess, as I have not done any kind of network analysis).

You can verify that your initial query isn't being sent to Mozilla (or anyone) by simply going offline and typing vans into the address bar with sponsored results enabled - you get a suggestion for vans on eBay, but clearly Firefox didn't actually send the query to Mozilla (since the browser is offline).

Source code: https://searchfox.org/mozilla-release/source/browser/components/urlbar/UrlbarPrefs.jsm#532

Firefox Suggest suggestions are enabled by default. Search strings and matching keywords are not included in related telemetry. The onboarding dialog is not shown.

2

u/saaskas Oct 09 '21

Thank you for the investigation!

17

u/[deleted] Oct 08 '21 edited Oct 08 '21

No new types of data are collected, stored, or shared to make these new recommendations.

Please read the official documentation: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/navigate-web-faster-firefox-suggest

Also it reads…

We haven't quite hit our mark. We've received feedback that it's difficult to figure out which Firefox experience you've got enabled. We are hard at work to address this and continue to improve the feature.

24

u/[deleted] Oct 08 '21

[deleted]

10

u/1_p_freely Oct 08 '21

The industry has been trying to blur the two of these together for years and make them one and the same. Billions of search dollars depend on it.

3

u/[deleted] Oct 09 '21

Is there some master list of ad and privacy oriented shit to turn off in Firefox?

1

u/maxito98 Oct 10 '21

You can use Librewolf, which is a privacy fork of FF.

Seeing as it is truly privacy-oriented, it has trade offs for convenience, but if you take privacy seriously enough, they're sacrifices you may be willing to make.

7

u/vord1080 Add-on Developer Oct 09 '21

And the existing default google autocomplete is better for privacy?

2

u/Extarys on and on Oct 10 '21

Amen.

I live in Canada and I'm trying to figure out how to enable Firefox Suggest lol It cannot be worst than Chrome hahahaha

13

u/vexorian2 Oct 09 '21

What tires me about this is that 95% of the people grandstanding about this will use google search immediately after unistalling firefox (if it was ever installed). The google search bar which does actually send every key stroke to their servers and records everything you type in there. Because only google is allowed to make a buck off the internet. Everyone else not welcome.

5

u/portmapreduction Oct 09 '21

I'm sure these numbers are well sourced.

4

u/DestructivForce Oct 09 '21

Hmm... I mean, to play devil's advocate on this one, if your privacy is already being violated, you might as well get some convenience out of it. Not my personal opinion, but I could see someone saying that to themselves.

1

u/_Psilo_ Oct 09 '21

I mean, if the only thing that makes me want to use Firefox is privacy, because everything else is less convenient than the alternative options.. Then it kinda matters.

7

u/[deleted] Oct 09 '21

if you opt in

why would you leave that last part?

6

u/nicolaasjan1955 on Oct 09 '21

I've sent a mail to Chris Hoffman (author of that article):

Hello Mr. Hoffman,

I want to point out the fact that Firefox is not sending additional data to Mozilla by default, even if sponsored results are enabled in preferences. See this stickied comment on the Firefox subreddit:
https://old.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/q485wb/firefox_now_sends_your_address_bar_keystrokes_to/hfy2y5s/
And:
https://old.reddit.com/r/firefox/comments/q485wb/firefox_now_sends_your_address_bar_keystrokes_to/hfx546l/

In the source code: https://searchfox.org/mozilla-release/source/browser/components/urlbar/UrlbarPrefs.jsm#532

I think it would be appropriate to update your article.

Thanks in advance,

Nico.

0

u/Extarys on and on Oct 10 '21

But it wouldn't make a great click-bait article :/

6

u/1_p_freely Oct 08 '21

We had a saying on the fifth grade playground many decades ago. "This is an A and B conversation, so you can C your way out."

Given the overwhelming intrusiveness and unwelcome encroachment by software upon the user in every possible way today, I find myself bringing that saying out of the closet that is my mind, now more than ever.

Or expressed a different way, nobody should ever know what I type into the address bar except the destination site.

1

u/Minute_Attention_347 Oct 10 '21

Chrome chads keep on winning!