Mozilla relaunches the Firefox Test Pilot program to test privacy-focused products - gHacks Tech News

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Mozilla relaunches the Firefox Test Pilot program to test privacy-focused products

Mozilla relaunched the Firefox Test Pilot program on September 10, 2019 to test privacy-focused products.

The organization shut down the program twice already, the last time in January 2019. The second "Test Pilot" program was launched by Mozilla in 2016 as a way to test new features, get feedback from Firefox users, and gather data to determine if experiments would make good additions to Firefox, be better off as extensions, or standalone services.

Some features, Tracking Protection or Activity Stream were integrated into Firefox. Others, Containers being one, were released as extensions on Mozilla AMO, the official add-on repository.

Today's relaunch of the Test Pilot program moves the program into a different direction. Mozilla notes that it is designed to give "loyal and faithful users" an option to "test-drive new, privacy-centric products as part of the relaunched Test Pilot program". One of the core differences to the previous program is that these products may be outside of the Firefox web browser and that they will be "just one step shy of general public release".

Firefox Private Network

The first product of the new Test Pilot program is called Firefox Private Network. The program is open to users from the United States only at the time and a Firefox account is required as well.

Mozilla's description is vague when it comes to the underlying functionality. It appears to be a browser proxy of sorts designed to protect Internet traffic better similarly to other third-party proxy/VPN extensions for Firefox. The service is free for a limited time only according to Mozilla.

The organization highlights three key features:

  • Protection of data when using public WiFi access points.
  • The IP address of the user is masked from sites and advertisers.
  • Ability to toggle it on or off.

The encrypted traffic flows through servers provided by Cloudflare, the same company that Mozilla picked for Firefox's upcoming DNS over HTTPS feature. Mozilla promises that "strong privacy controls limit what data" Cloudflare may collect and for how long it may store the data that it is allowed to connect.

firefox private account

Firefox Private Network is offered as a browser extension for Firefox. It adds an icon to Firefox's toolbar that indicates whether the service is enabled or not. A click on the icon displays its basic interface; you need to sign in to a Firefox account to start using it.

The only option that the extension provides is to toggle the product on or off. Options to see the new IP address, switch to a different server, and other comfort functions are missing at this point.

Cloudflare's Privacy Policy for the product reveals that the nearest Cloudflare data center is picked.

Whenever the extension is active, the browser will establish a secure connection to the nearest Cloudflare data center and the Cloudflare proxy will route your web-traffic to the requested website through the Cloudflare network.

A click on the settings icon displays options to leave feedback or check out the privacy policy. The Firefox Private Network privacy policy provides information on Cloudflare's handling of the data:

  • Cloudflare records the IP address, destination IP address, source and destination port, timestamp, and a token provided by Mozilla that indicates that the service is used. The company will delete the data within 24 hours.
  • Cloudflare won't log HTTP request data that is not encrypted.
  • Cloudflare may not use the data in any way except for improving the service and assist in debugging if issues arise.

Mozilla receives data to better understand "service performance, interaction with Firefox" and how to improve the feature.

  • Firefox sends data about the device, operating system version and a unique identifier that Mozilla connects to the Firefox Account.
  • Mozilla gets Firefox Account data including the email address, locale and IP address, and interaction data next to that.

Closing Words

Firefox Private Network is a proxy service designed to improve user privacy by letting traffic flow through Cloudflare's servers. It sounds as if the service will launch as a paid service eventually; whether it is going to become available worldwide then or only to select regions remains to be seen.

Mozilla struck a deal with Cloudflare that limits Cloudflare's access to the data; this won't be sufficient to some users but may be sufficient to the majority.  I'm by far more interested in the linking of a unique identifier to a Firefox account. It is not clear if the link will be kept indefinitely or if it is only stored for the testing period.

Much of the success of Firefox Private Network will depend on the price and whether a free version will be offered. Mozilla could, in theory, launch the extension for Google Chrome as well to reach more potential customers.

Browser proxies like Firefox Private Network are limited to the browser they are installed it. VPN services on the other hand run on the system which makes their use flexible as they protect the user in all applications.

Now You: What is your take on Firefox Private Network?

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Mozilla relaunches the Firefox Test Pilot program to test privacy-focused products
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Mozilla relaunches the Firefox Test Pilot program to test privacy-focused products
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Mozilla relaunched the Firefox Test Pilot program on September 10, 2019 to test privacy-focused products. The first is called Firefox Private Network.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Yuliya said on September 10, 2019 at 4:21 pm
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    cloudflare.. mozilla.. privacy.. vpn..
    what is this, some kind of 1st april joke?

  2. Fifox said on September 10, 2019 at 4:35 pm
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    So Opera VPN but paid. I wonder how they’ll price it, because if they go for $3/month or more, users would be better off with Nord or PIA.

  3. 420 said on September 10, 2019 at 4:45 pm
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    Well as long as Mozilla promises, what could go wrong? lol

  4. Anonymous said on September 10, 2019 at 4:56 pm
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    Must be at the end of the rope, or seeking to really heavily monetize, if they are aspiring to become a vpn, which it seems they are.

  5. Dean Clarkson said on September 10, 2019 at 5:03 pm
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    This might be time for a new browser.

    I’m not using CuckFlare under any circumstances…!

    1. Hunter said on September 10, 2019 at 6:26 pm
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      Or you could just, I don’t know… not enable it?

      That’s always an option.

    2. please_kill_me said on September 14, 2019 at 3:07 pm
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      Found the alt-right apologist.

  6. Anonymous said on September 10, 2019 at 6:05 pm
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    Now, Mozilla, this is becoming REALLY ridiculous. A Cloudflare proxy ? Are you trying to make Google Chrome look like a privacy browser ? Cloudflare is an almost universal MITM reverse proxy, you’re going to make it a large scale centralized DNS provider, and now a large scale centralized proxy ? Did you drop your last remnants of ethics in the sewer ?

    That would be taking a big dump on privacy even if Cloudflare had falsely promised not to look at the data. But here is the funniest part:

    “Cloudflare records the IP address, destination IP address, source and destination port, timestamp, and a token provided by Mozilla that indicates that the service is used. The company will delete the data within 24 hours.”

    Cool, they’re logging all this browsing data, and in non-anonymized form.

    “Cloudflare won’t log HTTP request data that is not encrypted.”

    Promises, promises, but the US jurisdiction and the actual political and technical situation does not allow you to realistically respect those promises. In 2019, we already know that big US tech companies can be forced to log and lie by government request, and actually do it. Just like for your MITM reverse proxies that see all the traffic unencrypted. They admit so later:

    “We also commit to documenting any government requests for information or for blocking access and any emergency requests in our semi-annual transparency report, *unless legally prohibited from doing so.*” (*…* emphasis mine)

    “Cloudflare may not use the data in any way except for improving the service and assist in debugging if issues arise.”

    Promises again. And the usual delightful vagueness of “for improving the service”.

    “Firefox sends data about the device, operating system version and a unique identifier that Mozilla connects to the Firefox Account.
    Mozilla gets Firefox Account data including the email address, locale and IP address, and interaction data next to that.”

    What kind of interaction data ? What would the fun be without Mozilla taking part directly in the gang bang ?

    Funnier points not in the ghacks article:

    “Cloudflare will not sell, license, sublicense, or grant any rights to your Proxy Data to any other person or entity without Mozilla’s explicit written permission.”

    Mozilla once again leaves the door open to allow third-party data sharing by Cloudflare “with their explicit written permission”. Note: not with *our* explicit permission. No need: they own us, lowly users.

    “Cloudflare will not combine any of the Proxy Data with any other Cloudflare or third party data in any way that can be used to identify individual end users.”

    So they will combine proxy data with other Cloudflare or third party data. They will just pretend to anonymize it before. Like if data de-anonymization wasn’t possible. Not that it would be an excuse if it actually was possible.

    “Cloudflare will not transfer Proxy Data to any third party except as required by law or in response to an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury, provided that the request is about a particular website.”

    So as expected, Cloudflare doesn’t fully hide the police snooping that it enables, but better, it doesn’t hide that it will snoop even when not required by law in case you write somewhere that you would like to punch Matthew Prince in his face. (please don’t share this with your third parties, Matthew, this was only an example).

  7. Tom Hawack said on September 10, 2019 at 6:06 pm
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    Mozilla promises to its users, so Cloudflare is likely to have promised to Mozilla, confidentiality and the minimum intrusion in users data required for a better experience.

    Microsoft promises, Google, Facebook, Amazon promise. They spend their marketing time promising. The boy next door promises he loves the girl next door. We all promise, few don’t. Far less promises when contractual, written.

    Private Network, a browser’s very own VPN after their very own DNS.
    Firefox’s DoH may at least be established with other servers than those of Cloudflare, but this ‘Private Network’ tied to CloudFlare has of privacy but the word. Count me out.

    And I dislike browser-specific network processes. System-wide only. Imagine you’ve connected to a site with a browser VPN, the site sends you an email and if you answer from an email client the site can easily discover the hiatus. No browser-specific DNS nor VPN when both are valuable but system-wide. That’s my opinion.

  8. Stv said on September 10, 2019 at 6:40 pm
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    This is ridiculous. Selling users here it comes…again. Firefox is not set for anonymity,privacy and security by default but you can help others to use this “weakness” to bypass censorship with the Snowflake extension.

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/torproject-snowflake/?src=search

    If anyone has any intention to try,use or buy it please do not! I also don’t see any reason or benefit to use the “Firefox Account” system.

    There is the Tor Browser especially for this (privacy) already. No VPN/Proxy provider can provide better security and anonymity than Tor (and i2p).

    If Mozilla really cares about what it says they should run hundreds of tor relays and exit nodes voluntarily OR integrate the .onion url support by default into Firefox at least. These will never going to happen of course.

    We know on which side Mozilla stands after they co-operated with the UK government.

    1. Pants said on September 11, 2019 at 9:27 am
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      > If Mozilla really cares about what it says they should run hundreds of tor relays and exit nodes voluntarily OR integrate the .onion url support by default into Firefox at least. These will never going to happen of course.

      No. They should not be in the relay/node business. That’s not good design. The Tor Project should be in the tor business, and Firefox should be in the browser business: including adding a Super Private Browsing Mode (or whatever they call it). I don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts of how that works, but there are steps to take to do this: and first up is making sure the tor network can handle any scaling: this is already underway and I have been at meetings where this has been discussed: from better metrics to measure changes (latency, load balancing, capacity, etc), to changes in the browser itself to reduce load, to changes in how some connections are handled (probably said that wrong: e.g: the slowest nodes could be turned in something else: so overall latency is reduced), to the actual mechanism for doing a test in Firefox, and to measuring users’ expectations and feedback on such a test. There is already serious work and investment going on for this to happen, including from Mozilla. I’ve listened to what ekr (Eric Rescorla) has asked and said, and I’ve listened to some of the top tor people and Mozilla engineers talk about this for a week.

      In terms of scaling: sorry if this is a bit messed up eg. concurrent vs total: the tor network has about 6 million users (I think that’s concurrent users). If Firefox did an experiment by adding 1% of users: that’s something like adding 20 million more users (not concurrent). But if they allow all users to use onion, that’s 200 million (or whatever) and no-one wants to crash the tor network and degrade perf so there is no uptake.

      These things take time – a lot of time. And work to get it to reality has been underway for years.

      > Firefox is not set for anonymity,privacy and security by default

      Anonymity: No mainstream browser is set up anonymity: out of the box they need to comply with standards. And the internet itself was never designed to be anonymous, and still isn’t. That’s what the tor protocol is for.

      Security: I’m not an expert on “security”: except to say that mainstream browsers are some of the most heavily vetted pieces of software on the planet. And due to their nature and use, some of the most susceptible/targeted pieces of software: in an ever changing complex landscape, which in turn makes them more vetted and more secure: it’s a good cycle.

      Privacy: I call BS. And I’m not going to get into a discussion about it. It would take way too long and I’m not interested in trying to change your view.

      1. Pants said on September 11, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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        edit: 1% is 2 million, not 20: my bad (assuming Firefox is 200 million users)

  9. Dilly Dilly said on September 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm
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    “loyal and faithful users”, guess I’m not qualified.

    ‘Mozilla promises that “strong privacy controls limit what data” Cloudflare may collect and for how long it may store the data that it is allowed to connect.’

    Ha ha ha!

  10. dante said on September 11, 2019 at 1:28 am
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    Partner with Cloudflare for privacy. Is that like saying partner with Hitler for train schedules?

  11. Stan said on September 11, 2019 at 1:45 am
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    https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2tmmc2

    What’s next, wind tunnel tested curved tabs?

  12. Kommenter said on September 11, 2019 at 3:21 am
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    I’m here for the mozilla banter comments.

  13. JohnIL said on September 11, 2019 at 11:39 am
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    I guess it’s a thing for the privacy folks. Not exactly interested myself in this sort of VPN thing. I guess do you trust Cloudflare and Mozilla because they did a deal must be something in it for both?

    1. John Fenderson said on September 11, 2019 at 5:19 pm
      Reply

      @JohnIL:

      I think it’s not a thing for serious privacy folks — they’ll be using a more comprehensive VPN that works for all internet traffic, not just a browser proxy. I think this is aimed more at the more casual user.

  14. Anonymous said on September 11, 2019 at 12:34 pm
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    Man, I just want a browser that displays websites correctly and implements web standards. DSN fuckery and VPN integration are not part of that.

  15. ULBoom said on September 12, 2019 at 2:24 pm
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    What’s the point? Today’s entry to the TL;DR Most Obscure Privacy/Security/Anonymity Marketing Release Sweepstakes?

    Don’t trust Clouflare at all; their DNS service, despite being touted as the bestest ever and fastest ever, is slow for me. Must be all the data they can’t collect.

    Google’s doing similar weird stuff; must be expecting to be slammmed by DOJ or something.

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