Separate issues raised by Firefox ads [was Re: Mozilla enabled ads in Firefox and they're active in Fedora]

Matthew Miller mattdm at
Wed Nov 19 15:46:52 UTC 2014

On Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 12:11:04AM -0800, Benjamin Kerensa wrote:
> I want to encourage the Fedora Community to think carefully about
> making a switch to another browser as the default in Fedora. I would
> not get hung up on these tiles (Ads) too much and remember they are
> necessary in order for Mozilla to continue building Firefox,
> Thunderbird, Seamonkey, Firefox OS and supporting the very literally
> hundreds of movements and thousands of events it does each year.

Hi Benjamin. This seems like as good a place as any to jump in on this
topic. I think that there are three separate concerns here:

1. Privacy and Tracking

This is a big concern of many of our contributors and users, and
it's something that we don't have a clear policy on. I've seen some
degree of speculation over Mozilla's practices here; people should
read <>, which will 
hopefully clear up some of the concerns. (I'm unsure, though, of
the significance of "tile ID and destination" vs "URL" from a user
point of view. Also, use of the jargon word "frecency" does not help

On the one hand, though, we live in a world of the Web. _Especially_
for a web browser, I do not see much difference between the
"enhanced" new tab page, which happens to be local with remote
content, and having that page be <>, which
runs Google Analytics and Optimizely beacons and could presumably
start running advertising at any time.

On the other hand, I do not like the idea of Fedora having a jumble
of privacy options one must track down and opt out of in various
applications. This doesn't seem in line with our vision statement,
which includes "people control their content and devices". Mozilla
seems to have thought this through considerably and the practices
seem much better than _most_, but I'm not sure we want to get Fedora
into the business of reviewing and approving these for every case.

2. Implication of Endorsement of Fedora or by Fedora

When someone downloads Firefox independently from the operating
system, and discovers that it is ad-supported software, the
relationship is fairly clear. However, Firefox is, as you note, our
default and centerpiece web browser. Although Firefox obviously has
a strong brand of its own, the details of the relationship isn't
necessarily clear.
A reasonable person could see the tiles marked "sponsored" and
assume that Fedora is involved in the sponsorhip relationship in
some way — that we endorse the links, products, or services; or that
we are receiving some amount of funding from them.
This is particularly problematic for a project like Fedora, where
our mission has a significant component of cultural impact. We don't
want to be seen as endorsing viewpoints which do not align with our
foundations. (And yes, this is also a potential problem with the
various links to websites contained in GNOME Software appstream from
3. Dislike of Advertising in General

When a company's source of revenue is advertising, its users
inevitably become its _product_, rather than the people the company
serves. I appreciate that Mozilla is making these moves in order to
reduce dependency on a company where advertising and tracking _is_
the primary income stream. It's a complicated issue and I know
Mozilla has struggled with it and will continue to.
I guess I don't have much more to say about this aspect except:
there it is, and that it is separate from the other two.
Matthew Miller
<mattdm at>
Fedora Project Leader

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