Firefox backs 'Do Not Track' with online stealth

Dec 19, 2010 by Glenn Chapman
A woman stands in front of a wall depicting a computer user at the CeBIT high-tech fair in Hanover, central Germany. As concern about online privacy grows, Mozilla is promising to let people cloak Internet activity in free Firefox Web browsing software being released early next year.

As concern about online privacy grows, Mozilla is promising to let people cloak Internet activity in free Firefox Web browsing software being released early next year.

"Technology that supports something like a 'Do Not Track' button is needed and we will deliver in the first part of next year," Mozilla chief executive Gary Kovacs said while providing a glimpse at Firefox 4 at the Mozilla's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

"The user needs to be in control," he added.

There is a disturbing imbalance between what websites need to know about visitors to personalize advertisements or services and the amount of data collected, according to Kovacs.

"It is not that ads are bad," he said. "It is what they do with my tracked behavior.

"Where I go on the Internet is how I live my life; that is a lot of data to hold just for someone to serve me ads."

Microsoft this month unveiled increased privacy options for the upcoming version of its popular 9 (IE9) including a feature "to help keep third-party websites from tracking your Web behavior."

Microsoft said "Tracking Protection" will be built into a test version of IE9 being released early next year.

users will have to be savvy enough to activate the feature and create lists of the third-party websites that they do not want to track their behavior.

Internet Explorer is the most widely used Web browser in the United States followed by Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari.

, which beefed up Chrome in recent weeks and is testing a that operates on the Web browser software, cautioned that the mechanics and ramifications of stealth browsing need to be figured out.

"The idea of 'Do Not Track' is interesting, but there doesn't seem to be consensus on what 'tracking' really means, nor how new proposals could be implemented in a way that respects people's current ," said the company, also based in Mountain View.

"We look forward to ongoing dialogue about what 'Do Not Track' could look like, and in the meantime we are always looking into new tools to give people more transparency and control over their online privacy."

Kovacs agreed that the issue is complicated, with vested interests that include advertisers paying for services or content offered free online.

Supporters of targeted online ads argue that Internet users benefit from getting pitches tailored to their interests.

Firefox believes perils to privacy online are urgent enough to warrant building stealth into the coming version of its browser software, which has 400 million users around the world.

"I fundamentally believe that the balance is tipped too far," Kovacs said of tracking Web users.

"You can't tell me the delivery of a piece of content is going to be that much better if you know everything about my life; it's all about moderation."

Customers go online at a Sydney cybercafe. As concern about online privacy grows, Mozilla is promising to let people cloak Internet activity in free Firefox Web browsing software being released early next year.

Firefox debuted in 2004 as an innovative, communally crafted open-source browser released as an option to Internet Explorer.

Mozilla touts itself as the people's alternative; only now the battlefield includes Google as both a supporter and a rival.

"Google is a great partner; it is one of those things where we cooperate and compete," Kovacs said. "When we get together we are either hugging or hitting, it depends on the day."

Mozilla doesn't believe that Chrome is truly an open browser despite being free nor is it convinced that the colossus will sacrifice its business interests when it comes to money to be made off user data.

"We believe that (Chrome) is tied to their commercial purposes," Kovacs said.

"As the Web grows in importance in our lives, having all that data sit with one vendor that is not truly cross platform and not truly cross device is an alarming thing."

A US Federal Trade Commission staff report released this month proposes safeguards including "Do Not Track" features in browsers for people who want their online activities unrecorded by websites they visit.

The report said industry efforts to address privacy through self-regulation "have been too slow, and up to now have failed to provide adequate and meaningful protection."

"The report confirms that many companies -- both online and offline -- don't do enough to protect consumer privacy," said Democratic Senator John Kerry.

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glene77is
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
The German iNet Browser "DOOBLE"
has done this for several years.

Finally, some action by FireFox and Microsoft.
solar2030
Dec 19, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2010
It's all going to be futile anyhow, since IPv6 will enable ISPs and governments to issue you a unique tracking code as a part of your IP on the infrastructure level.

You think they'd pass up on an opportunity like that?
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
It's all going to be futile anyhow, since IPv6 will enable ISPs and governments to issue you a unique tracking code as a part of your IP on the infrastructure level.

You think they'd pass up on an opportunity like that?
Can you explain this for me? I haven't spent much time looking at broad range IPv6 but I don't see how it would be any different from IPv4 when it comes to originator identification due to packet tagging.
gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2010
If every gadget on the Internet has a unique IP number, then total tracking is only a matter of buying log records from other websites. Since it's becoming usual that only one person uses a particular gadget (instead of the family computer), it gets a lot easier.

Say EvilEmpire wants to know all about you, they buy records of your activity from Walmart.com, amazon, sears, bestbuy. Once that becomes standard practice, it leads to EvilEmpire also buying such records from brick-and-mortar stores where you use your loyalty-card. (Why did you think such cards exist?)

This leads to very serious breaches of privacy. For example, EvilEmpire now knows (or can infer from the data) your alcohol habits, sexual preferences, and even dick size. Talk about privacy! The latter of course from what size of prophylactics you bought.

Lest any gullible idiot says this is paranoia, I have to say that I've actually worked at a company that buys such records.
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
If every gadget on the Internet has a unique IP number, then total tracking is only a matter of buying log records from other websites. Since it's becoming usual that only one person uses a particular gadget (instead of the family computer), it gets a lot easier.
Routing doesn't go away with IPv6. Are you refering to MAC addresses? Those are unique, and that's how hardware is identified. IP rides on top of that has for a very very long time.
SurfAlbatross
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
If you are concerned about your privacy online, Tor is a fantastic option for desktop/notebook/netbook. Not sure about the gadget/phone world.

torproject.org
alec123456789
3 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2010
Can you explain this for me? I haven't spent much time looking at broad range IPv6 but I don't see how it would be any different from IPv4 when it comes to originator identification due to packet tagging.


With the current IPv4 system, your IP address changes periodically (for me every couple weeks). This is necessary because we're running out of address space and they have to shuffle things around constantly to make the most of it. Websites can't simply assume that traffic from a given address is always the same person; hence cookies and the like. With IPv6 your ISP will give you a static address when you sign up, and that will be that.
As for a new fancy "stealth mode" in browsers, I don't see what's wrong with setting Firefox to clear everything when I close the browser (spare what's on my whilelist). Sure, there are also flash-cookies; but starting Firefox with a batch program that deletes everything in Flash's cookie directory afterwords takes care of that problem.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2010
gwrede:

There's a good side and a bad side to everything.

At least it will be much harder for drug dealers, terrorists, child pornographers, etc, to propagate their chosen lifestyles.

As for spying on you, a lot of software companies already have worms in their products constantly taking information off your computer, including video game companies and operating system companies.

It wouldn't be too hard for a mobile device manufacturer to put firmware in your phone and secretly have a "stealth mode" camera and audio recording of everything that goes on, and transmit it in packets hidden in normal data while you are making phone calls or browsing.

Only people would ever be able to prove it was happening would be someone smart enough to hack the hardware, and there are some of those in the world, but not many. Most are already on the company's payroll.
ekim
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2010
Only people would ever be able to prove it was happening would be someone smart enough to hack the hardware, and there are some of those in the world, but not many. Most are already on the company's payroll.

A whistle blower could easily inform the public.
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2010
A whistle blower could easily inform the public.


Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started apple in their garage.

Wonder how you or I, or anyone, would know if someone that smart wanted to hide some circuitry inside the processor or other chipsets in a computer.

Concerned Employee: "What's this here for?"

Big Brother: "Oh. That's just a logic accelerator. Helps do some types of math problems faster."
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
With the current IPv4 system, your IP address changes periodically (for me every couple weeks).
Only under DHCP scopes in the IP range and those are logged by MAC address, which as I said above, is unique.
This is necessary because we're running out of address space and they have to shuffle things around constantly to make the most of it.
No, we're running out of address spaces because they're permanently assigned to different networks that need backbone IP space. It doesn't affect end users as greatly, like you and I.
Websites can't simply assume that traffic from a given address is always the same person; hence cookies and the like. With IPv6 your ISP will give you a static address when you sign up, and that will be that.
Only within their network. Like I said, routing will still exist. Companies won't buy more IP addresses just to make consumers like you and I forward facing unless there's money to be made in it.
dtxx
5 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2010
I can't believe there are people arguing against the adoption of ipv6. NAT is awful and ipv4 was not designed with the current scale of the internet in mind. With ipv6 you won't be seeing the core internet routers having to maintain a list of 100,000+ routes, and the routing is inherently more efficient. And it's much easier because you don't need dhcp or really to do any config on clients. As opposed to ipv4, whose clients are dumb and disconnected by default.
rwinners
1 / 5 (2) Dec 19, 2010
It's all about tracking your interests for monetary purposes. The terrorists will buy multiple devices and register them to multiple identities. Throw away phones won't go away. And can you see your convenience store requiring photo ID and SSN in order to sell you a disposable?
Internet providers don't change your IP for any other reason than to 'disallow' you the use of a static IP. Its a marketing strategy, pure and simple. Want static? Pay more. Want higher speed, pay more.
Oh, and spoofers will always be around without regard to the version of IP in use.
Were I the worrying type, it be concerned about whole the level playing field issue. That seems a much more worrisome issue than the number of routes a core router must maintain.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2010
from brick-and-mortar stores where you use your loyalty-card
Spy cards. Loyalty is a euphemism. Call it what it is. The cards are easy to deal with. Give a fake name and address. They don't check. Not yet anyway.

Lying is for life and death, and a good joke.

Plus Nazi Marketeers. Disinformation is the correct way to deal with spies.

So remember ALL spy cards have the number 666 on them. Even if they don't its the right thing to say. It is just plain weird the way people look at me when I say that. Many of them probably believe that crap in Revelations but they still look at me oddly.

Ethelred
StarDust21
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
is it similar to "Tor"?
rwinners
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2010
Plus Nazi Marketeers. Disinformation is the correct way to deal with spies.
CHollman82
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 20, 2010
Unless I am mistaken the originating IP address (the one that made the request) is encoded in the packet and propagated forward through all routing devices already... IPv6 is irrelevant, what you guys are talking about could be done already.
rwinners
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2010
You mean the the IP I get at Starbucks?

Actually, I think more tracking for commercial purposes is done by email address than IP address. Various sites compare email addresses. For instance, Facebook might plant ads on your page based upon 'requests' made by third party vendors who know you, since you have an account with them sharing the same email address.
I'm quite sure that I get specific web ads based upon my ISP, which provides advertisers information on where my specific IP is located.
deepsand
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 20, 2010
Firefox os the best

http://www.webon.pl/fuviss/

This from one who apparently doesn't know the difference between a Browser and an Operating System?
deepsand
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 20, 2010
It's all going to be futile anyhow, since IPv6 will enable ISPs and governments to issue you a unique tracking code as a part of your IP on the infrastructure level.

Not only are IP/IP Addresses and cookies wholly independent, attempting to link them in any manner serves no necessary function.

Furthermore, as a cookie is a locally stored file, it can be modified, moved, or deleted at will by a user.
deepsand
1.7 / 5 (6) Dec 20, 2010
If every gadget on the Internet has a unique IP number, then ...

..., no problem.

An anonymizing proxy prevents the source's IP Address from being passed.

deepsand
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 20, 2010
Unless I am mistaken the originating IP address (the one that made the request) is encoded in the packet and propagated forward through all routing devices already... IPv6 is irrelevant, what you guys are talking about could be done already.

The IP Address may or may not be passed by a proxy server; an anonymizing proxy does not.

Whether IP4 or IP6, tracking by IP Address or blocking such, the issues are the same.
Au-Pu
1 / 5 (1) Dec 26, 2010
Jobs and Wozniak may have started in their garage but they started with a fully developed and working system developed by Xerox
Xerox's directors refusal to consider what their staff had developed left a product waiting for some opportunist to "acquire" and market
So much for the cleverness of that pair
We do not know if their method of acquisition was legal as they cover up that part of their story.
Ethelred
not rated yet Dec 26, 2010
The Woz designed the first Apple with NO operating system. Later a autoboot rom was developed that had a gigantic 2K of memory. The graphic user interface you are talking about was NOT on that homebrew nor on the more commercial Apple ][ that I used.

Jobs didn't go to Xerox Parc until years later, after Apple was an established company. Same for Microsoft only they were writing code for the first PC, the Altair, and later the IBM.

The Woz's design was VERY clever. Jobs ability to get the company up off the ground was just plain impressive.

The Apple GUI that was inspired by the Xerox system was entirely coded by Apple and was based on seeing the system on a single day of exposure to it. You can't patent a concept.

It was legal and we DO know it. They didn't cover up anything about the way they got the idea.

I recommend reading Fire in the Valley if you can find a copy.

Ethelred
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Dec 27, 2010
Once that becomes standard practice, it leads to EvilEmpire also buying such records from brick-and-mortar stores where you use your loyalty-card.
This leads to very serious breaches of privacy. For example, EvilEmpire now knows (or can infer from the data) your alcohol habits, sexual preferences, and even dick size. Talk about privacy! The latter of course from what size of prophylactics you bought.

Lest any gullible idiot says this is paranoia, I have to say that I've actually worked at a company that buys such records.

Yes but even if I did have a below average phallus I don't think its good marketing to advertise extra small condoms to me. But I get what you are saying, the sad fact is that most of what you just said is already a reality, imagine what Gmail.com could do with all of it's mined data, their ads are already scarily accurate based on my email content. I'm not sure there is a clause in their privacy statement saying they wont sell that mined data.
Ethelred
1 / 5 (1) Dec 27, 2010
I'm not sure there is a clause in their privacy statement saying they wont sell that mined data.
They aren't likely to SELL it. They OWN Doubleclick. Why would they sell the data to competitors? They are Nazi Marketeers already. For those of you with delusions that mentioning Nazis is a sign of someone losing the argument just replace Nazi with Big Brother.

Nazi sounds better and I came up with the phrase long ago. I am pretty sure I came up with it when I first ran across spy cards at Vons before anyone else had jumped on that particular tumbrel. They STARTED the spy cards.

Ethelred

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