Mozilla Persona: privacy preserving authentication service

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 27, 2013
Updated • Mar 28, 2013

Several companies, Google, Facebook and Twitter to name three, offer their own authentication services to third party websites. What this means is that you can register an account on third party websites using your Google , Facebook or Twitter account. The benefit here is that you usually only have to authorize the new service or site using an existing account so that you do not have to fill out a sign up form and select a password to do the same.

So, you sign up faster and do not need to juggle around with different secure passwords. While that is great and all, it also means that the company that is providing you with the service gets the opportunity to track you around the web.

Mozilla's Persona, not to be confused with basic Firefox themes previously known as Personas, is an authentication service that looks on first glance similar to the other authentication services that you find on the Internet.

The basic idea is to use one account for multiple sign ups on the Internet. Sites supporting Persona are rare at the moment, with The Times Crossword probably the biggest one right now.

Let me show you how it works in detail:

  • First thing you need to do is create an account on the site if you have not done so already. To do so, enter an email address and password to create the account.
  • You will receive a confirmation email to verify the email address.

Once you have created the account, you can use it to log in on sites that support Mozilla Persona. Just click on the Log in button on those sites to start the process. A window should open up that displays your Persona identity and the option to sign in.

You can change the email address here if it is not yours or if you want to use another. A second screen is displayed to you after you have clicked on sign in. Here you can specify for how long you want to remain singed in on the website. Options are to stay signed in for a month or for that session only.  And that's it. No need to enter a username or password anymore, everything is handled in the background.

So far so identical to other authentication services. What sets Mozilla apart is the focus on user privacy. Where other services may use the data for marketing purposes, Mozilla designed the system to be open and decentralized which basically means that any site can hosts its own Identity Provider that is used for the authentication.

Persona on top of it does not phone home before it is allowing users to connect to a site. This is done by using the browser as a middleman so that communication goes through the browser which acts as a proxy between the email provider and the website the user wants to log in to.

Mozilla notes that it will take time before Persona will reach a certain stage of popularity. It remains to be seen how well it will fare against established systems.

Update: not launched yet out of beta.


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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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