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Mozilla explains user-tracking proposal for Firefox

Telemetry has no UUID, Metrics Data Ping might

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In a story published yesterday your humble Reg writer wrongly confused Mozilla's Telemetry project with the open-source outfit's so-called Metrics Data Ping proposal. Mozilla has been in touch to clear things up.

The org's global privacy and policy boss Alex Fowler kindly explained the differences between the two systems to us.

"The Metrica Data Ping proposal is not Telemetry. Telemetry is a component of Firefox that collects anonymous browser performance data for around 200 data points. It's voluntary, doesn't include a universally unique identifier (UUID), and is under the user's control," he said.

As we noted in our earlier piece, the Telemetry project that transmits data via secure encryption was slotted into Mozilla's browser, Firefox 7, in September last year.

Fowler continued:

The Metrics Data Ping is currently a proposal under consideration to understand usage statistics. The proposal is to begin collecting a limited data set of fewer than 30 non-personal data elements in a statistically valid approach.

The current thinking is for the ping to be opt-out and introduce a UUID to enable longitudinal analysis. Users would be provided notice of the data collection and how it will contribute to the stability and performance of Firefox, the ability to view the non-personal data collected, and also to opt-out of the collection.

In addition, the team is developing other privacy-enhancing sampling techniques to further limit the collection wherever possible.

Mozilla works in the open and we are under active discussions about various approaches to determine how to measure Firefox usage so that we can improve the features and performance for all users.

As with any Mozilla project or offering we will make sure that if the proposal is integrated into Firefox, it's in accordance with the Mozilla's Privacy Principles and gives users complete control over their data.

Our original story wrongly suggested that a proposal had been put forward for Telemetry to have the longitudinal analysis UUID loaded into it. However, it is in fact being mulled over for use with Mozilla's Metrics Data Ping.

Thanks to those readers who got in touch to point out the errors in that story, and we sincerely hope this piece clarifies Mozilla's current position on tracking users online.

The outfit's privacy policy is here, while the public and sometimes fiery discussion about the Metrics Data Ping proposal can be viewed here.

It's a debate well worth getting stuck into. ®

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