Mozilla proposes that browsers may share user interests with websites
The web browser knows a lot about your activities. While those information are usually kept locally available only, for instance in form of the visited site history or local Internet cache, it is fairly certain that some of the information are snagged away by companies interested in these kinds of data, for instance in form of third party cookies.
A recent article on Mozilla Labs by Justin Scott proposes a system where the web browser, Firefox for example, could share information about your interests with websites that you visit so that content can be personalized for you.
What this could look like? You select to share interests with a website, say in technology or mechanics, and that website will provide you with content tailored to those interests. The technical side of the approach may work well depending on the granularity of options and how those websites make the content available.
For example, letâ€™s say Firefox recognizes within the browser client, without any browsing history leaving my computer, that Iâ€™m interested in gadgets, comedy films, hockey and cooking. As I browse around the Web, I could choose when to share those interests with specific websites for a personalized experience. Those websites could then prioritize articles on the latest gadgets and make hockey scores more visible. Destinations like the Firefox Marketplace could recommend recipe and movie apps, even if itâ€™s my first time visiting that site
I can hear some alarm bells going off right now and that is also one of my main concerns in regards to the proposal. While Mozilla promises that users will be in full control over their interests and what they share and with which website, it is likely something that at least part of Firefox's user base does not want to see implemented at all.
Mozilla notes that some Firefox users have already taken part in an experiment that tested the concept, and that this interest shows that at least part of the user base craves for these personalized experiences.
I do not think that you can link interest in the experiment and interest in running the feature in your browser that easily, considering that users who have participated in the experiment may have been curious about it more than anything else. This does not mean that they are not in favor of such an implementation on the other hand.
I have several concerns when it comes to the proposal.
- I do not want this natively implemented in Firefox. I do not mind if it is offered as an add-on, but a native implementation means that additional code is added to Firefox that may not be wanted or used by the majority of users. I assume it will be turned off by default if it is really implemented.
- It is not clear from the proposal alone if companies may be able to use the feature for tracking or advertisement purposes.
- Mozilla at its core is a browser developer and this type of feature falls more in the line of something that is pleasing companies and advertisers but not necessarily end users. This assumes that users can reach any content on the websites they visit on their own.
- I dislike personalization. I do not like it when Google tries to convince me that I wanted to search for something else, or displays different results to me than to my next door neighbor when we use the same query.
While the approach may be better than what we currently have on the Internet, its existence does not necessarily mean that other forms of personalization will just go away magically.
You can join the discussion over at Google Groups to voice your opinion on the matter.Advertisement