Firefox Pioneer is a feature of SHIELD, a system that Mozilla implemented in Firefox to test new features and changes on a subset of Firefox users.
Firefox Pioneer is an opt-in feature of SHIELD. It is offered as a browser extension for the Firefox browser that users need to install.
Once installed, users may be opted in to SHIELD studies automatically, and information about sensitive data may be sent to Mozilla which the organization uses to better understand how people use the browser and the Internet.
This helps Mozilla improve the Firefox web browser, and introduce features and changes to the browser that may take these studies into account.
Users may also be asked questions which they may answer to provide Mozilla with additional insight.
Mozilla notes that user privacy is protected in a number of ways. Each SHIELD study proposal is evaluated by a panel of experts to ensure that only "necessary and appropriate" data is collected. Users are given a random ID that is only used by Firefox Pioneer, and Pioneer will not be active in Private Browsing mode.
It won't collect sensitive data such as cookies, email addresses, form data or login information, and all data that is transferred is encrypted. Individual data will never be sold or shared, and access to the raw data is granted to a small number of researchers only.
There are two requirements for participating in Firefox Pioneer:
- Make sure that "allow Firefox to install and run studies" is enabled on about:preferences#privacy.
- Install the Firefox Pioneer add-on.
You can manage studies at any time by loading about:studies in the browser's address bar. Firefox lists all studies that you participate in on that page. You may leave any study there at any time.
You need to uninstall the Firefox add-on Firefox Pioneer if you don't want to be part of the program anymore.
Firefox Pioneer is an opt-in program designed for users who want to give up data to help in the development process. It is a bit disconcerting that Mozilla does not list the data that it may get its hands on when users install Firefox Pioneer. While the organization mentioned that it does not include cookies or login data, it did not list the data that it does collect explicitly. This would certainly help users make better decisions when it comes to Firefox Pioneer.