Mozilla, the not-for-profit organization developing Firefox web browser, has started pushing ads. The latest stable version of the browser will suggest sponsored links as users start typing in the address bar.
Firefox web browser will now subtly push promotional messages in the form of sponsored links through the address bar suggestions. There is, however, a way to turn the same off.
Mozilla confirms promotional or sponsored messages to appear in the address bar as suggested links:
Mozilla has been subtly hinting that it will push ads in the form of suggestions to websites in the address bar. The sponsored links started gradually arriving in Firefox version 92 and are now standard in the latest stable release of the web browser.
AFAIK, this is the first new Firefox major feature since Mozilla laid off 250 people.
So "Changing Mozilla" starts with a new place to display ads, in search suggestions. Where will it end?https://t.co/BaQMurLHLC
— Anthony Ramine (@nokusu) October 7, 2021
Back when Mozilla was still experimenting with this form of advertising, the non-profit organization had suggested: “Beginning in Firefox version 92, you will also receive new, relevant suggestions from our trusted partners based on what you’re searching for. No new data is collected, stored, or shared to make these new recommendations”.
Mozilla is calling the feature ‘Firefox Suggest’. The company published blog posts detailing the feature last month.
Mozilla insists that Firefox Suggest is not an ad-serving platform but helps educate Internet users:
Mozilla suggests that Firefox Suggest is not an ad-serving platform. Instead, the feature will help Internet users gain additional knowledge through “vetted partners and trusted organizations”.
“Firefox Suggest is a new discovery feature that is built directly into the browser. [The feature] acts as a trustworthy guide to the better web, surfacing relevant information and sites to help people accomplish their goals”.
“Firefox Suggest will enhance this by including other sources of information such as Wikipedia, Pocket articles, reviews and credible content from sponsored, vetted partners and trusted organizations”.
Mozilla introduces Firefox Suggest for contextual website suggestions in the address bar. Positioned as tool to save you time while searching, the optional feature includes sponsored results, so they're basically adds in the address bar. https://t.co/RWPxMdp9kw pic.twitter.com/uobTWrant7
— Liliputing (@liliputingnews) October 7, 2021
Mozilla insists that it is working with only those partners that meet Firefox’s privacy standards. Currently, the company is working with adMarketplace.
It is important to note that Mozilla is not forcing the new feature onto Firefox web browser users. They will have to provide access to new data types by clicking “Allow suggestions”.
Mozilla says users will have to enable Firefox Suggest contextual manually.
However, in BleepingComputer's tests and from what users have reported, the feature is on by default. pic.twitter.com/rmtrnB8eJm
— BleepingComputer (@BleepinComputer) October 7, 2021
Incidentally, Firefox Suggest seems to be limited to address bar suggestions. However, it will draw information and inferences from the users’ browsing history, bookmarks, open tabs, shortcuts, and search engine usage.
To toggle ‘Firefox Suggest’, and change the types of suggestions showing up at any time, users can click the three-bar menu button and go to Settings > Privacy & Security on the left, and then go down to the Address Bar — Firefox Suggest section. To enable or disable contextual suggestions, select or deselect the checkbox next to Contextual suggestions.
Mozilla claims it does not collect any new information to help the feature. It assures that there is no personally identifiable information. The organization has published a detailed blog post that mentions how it collects, processes, and shares user data.