Home Mozilla: We’re About to Grab More Data About You, But Here’s How We’ll Keep It Safe

Mozilla: We’re About to Grab More Data About You, But Here’s How We’ll Keep It Safe

Mozilla has some big plans up its sleeve in 2012. The non-profit open source foundation is planning some features for its Firefox Web browser and beyond that will require greater access to user data. In a blog post, the organization explains exactly how it intends to use and handle that data. In short, very carefully.

Some of Mozilla’s initiatives for this year include an HTML5 Web app store, a mobile operating system and perhaps most intensive of all, a decentralized system for user identification and authentication at the browser level. In other words, a browser-based replacement for usernames and passwords.

Historically, Mozilla has thoroughly encrypted the data utilized for things like Firefox Sync, which allows users to sync bookmarks, passwords and other data across devices. That encryption, says Mozilla is even more solid that the type used by banks.

Secure as it may be, application-level encryption won’t be practical for some of the things Mozilla is working on, a few of which will naturally require that more data points about users are collected. This is a big deal to consumers and legislators alike, as issues like user tracking and online privacy receive more attention in the press and the halls of the U.S. Congress.

A Five-Point Plan For Data Security & Privacy

So how will Mozilla secure your data in the future? They’ve proposed a five-point set of guidelines to govern their development moving forward. Data should be collected only when doing so presents an obvious benefit to the user, and the vendor (in this case, Mozilla) should always be aware of what data is being stored, as well as how, where and why.

Mozilla also promises to do its best to minimize how long any given data point is stored on its own servers. If data is not needed for an extended period of time, it shouldn’t be stored for long, if at all. That data should also be invisible to the server whenever possible. “If we can implement a given feature by never sending data to the server, or by using application-level encryption, then we will,” Mozilla said.

Finally, if it’s possible to use anonymized, aggregate data rather than individually identifiable information, Mozilla’s engineering team will strive to do it.

Before SOPA exploded as one of the biggest tech news stories in recent memory, there was a growing amount of focus being put on online privacy and related issues. User data tracking and retention have caught the attention of U.S. legislators, who have demanded answers from Amazon over the user privacy afforded by its Silk browser and expressed concern about online user tracking in general. This level of transparency on Mozilla’s part is probably no coincidence in light of these issues and the microscope they will continue to be placed under in the near future.

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