Mozilla's Denelle Dixon-Thayer: Trading Away Your Privacy

Don’t trust Facebook or Google with your personal information? You’re not alone.

A recent Reason-Rupe poll found that when it comes to their personal info, more Americans trust even the National Security Agency or the Internal Revenue Service over Google or Facebook.

Mozilla’s Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs, Denelle Dixon-Thayer, says "data hygiene” should be something every new or established tech company should be thinking about.

"Trust is our currency," said Thayer to Reason TV at the 2014 South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. "If we don’t have the trust of our users then we actually aren’t going to be successful as a company."

Dixon-Thayer says big data companies need to be upfront with users about who has access to their data, how long their data is stored, and do what they can to inform users of government data requests.

"With data, may come a reward, but also a substantial risk," says Dixon-Thayer, who points out that if you keep information for a long time your company becomes open to subpoenas and NSA requests.

"It’s just thinking about what that data can do for you and when does it lose its value to you," says Dixon-Thayer

In October 2013, Mozilla endorsed the USA FREEDOM Act, which would have amended the PATRIOT Act and ended dragnet collection of phone data while providing more oversight of surveillance programs and the FISA court. The bill is pending in the house judiciary committee.

Approximately 7:27.

Interview by Paul Detrick. Produced by Todd Krainin. Shot by Krainin and Alexis Garcia.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    That woman is a fast talker.

  • ||

    Better than a close talker.

  • Swiss Servator, Käse, Käse!||

    What about a low talker?

  • Brett L||

    Wait, are we friends with Mozilla again?

  • ||

    Was there really anybody around here who was on board with the boycott, except to the extent that they thought it was a valid, peaceful way to make change (however silly)?

  • Brett L||

    Eh, I decided to stop using Firefox after the whole thing. If the board can be swayed to fire a man who has been with them for 20 years, through 3 different corporate structures because of personal political donations, I don't have much faith in their future product. Maybe they will prove me wrong. Its not really about "right" or "wrong" or boycotts. I just don't think that's the action of a company who is going to continue to be successful.

  • ||

    Oh, so mad in the opposite direction.

    I'm curious, why stop using a browser now based on poor expectations for its future? It's not like you're choosing an RDBMS to use for the next decade.

    Also, I wonder how much was the board and how much it was Eich himself not wanting to drag down Mozilla with him. Mozilla is a very ideological organization that views itself as performing a noble mission, and AFAIK Eich shares that passion.

  • Brett L||

    Not mad, really. I'd been using Chrome for non-work functions on my work computer, and just had Firefox at home out of inertia. Reasonable is enough of a differentiator to get me on Chrome. And I might as well jump now.

    They are undergoing a change of leadership at the very top, and at the very least the Board allowed itself to waffle rather than coming out in defense of their picked CEO. That's a disaster waiting to happen to the next guy, too. Any rational successor is going to be risk averse. It's only worse because they let a 20 year employee twist in the wind at the same time.

  • RFID||

    What did you move to? As far as I can tell Firefox is the only browser that actually values your privacy. The only other thing I would consider using is Chromium, but they are too close to the big G for my tastes.

  • Brett L||

    Reasonable made it worth moving to Chrome. If IE didn't insist on loading like a Dodge Gremlin getting off the line and didn't decide to randomly not play video files, I'd just use IE. My needs are not that great. Firefox had just dug itself off my shitlist for having similar issues to the IE bitch in the last year or so.

  • RFID||

    If you value privacy, Chrome is probably the worst choice you could have picked.

  • Daily Beatings||

    Actually no since Chrome and Firefox are open source the code can be validated. You can run a pure version of Chrome called Chromium if you're really worried about security. IE is the worst offender since it's closed source and Windows only, another closed source product.

    I use Ubuntu and Windows only in a VMware sandbox. Since Adobe stopped development on the Flash plugin for Linux the only current option is to use Chrome since a current version of Flash is included with the Pepper plugin.

  • ||

    Actually no since Chrome and Firefox are open source

    Chrome is not open source. Only Chromium is. Which is great, if you like Chrome without any plugins, flash, or print functions.

    Also, even though I run Firefox for the same reason, it's worth pointing out that auditing the code of a program that large and unwieldy would be a nightmare. It's more of a theoretical advantage. But at least with open source code there's the possibility of a code audit, or at least that security gaps and privacy leaks will be stumbled upon during bug hunting and patching.

    Also, you can still use the 11.2 Flash player under linux if you want to run a OSS browser. Security updates are still backported from the latest release.

  • Daily Beatings||

    Sorry if I didn't make that clear in my post. Yes Chromium is open source only but you can use plugins including Flash and printing is available, at least under most distros. Ubuntu has the packages in the repos. I used Chromium for quite some time before switching to Chrome.

    Flash plugin developement stopped at 11.2. Google took it over and backports security fixes to Adobe, but nothing else. If want the current version of Flash on Linux then you have to use Chrome. It's a problem because some embedded video just will not work with the native Flash plugin, but works fine in Chrome with the pepper plugin.

  • ||

    Flash plugin developement stopped at 11.2.

    Right, I was saying you can continue to use that version in non-Chrome applications under linux.

    Google took it over and backports security fixes to Adobe, but nothing else.

    That's not exactly my understanding. Adobe partnered with Google to develop the new API, but Adobe itself is still providing the security fixes I think. Here's the press release from when they announced it.

    If want the current version of Flash on Linux then you have to use Chrome. It's a problem because some embedded video just will not work with the native Flash plugin

    True, which sucks. I have yet to encounter anything that wouldn't play on FF w/ 11.2, but my needs are pretty basic. I don't do a lot of browser based video. Here's hoping for the day when the entire web migrates to HTML5 and Flash can find its way to the ash heap of technological history where it belongs.

  • Daily Beatings||

    Well to solve all of these problems I just installed PipeLight:

    It allows for Windows plugins to run under Linux without the overhead of running a separate browser under Wine. You can use it in Firefox, Chromium, Opera, anything that supports the Netscape Plugin API.

    Silverlight, Flash and Adobe Reader plus some other DRM laced plugins are supported. You need User Agent Switcher on some sites, but it does work well.

  • Brett L||

    Eh. I've pretty much quit relying on or even expecting browsers to treat any information about what I type into them as private.

  • John Galt||

    Isn't that the truth.

    And it's a funny coincidence that only hours before the story on Mozilla's CEO I had just downloaded the new Firefox with intentions of switching over to it for use as my default browser. After a couple days contemplating Mozilla's almost reflex like reaction aimed at the appeasement the P.C. crowd I came to the conclusion there wasn't much point to the switch. The P.C.ers, IMHO, are about as trustworthy as Big Government. Not that it makes any difference since the two groups are one in the same.

  • RJ The Terrible||

    The PC-ers do not have guns

  • WildBill||

    I'd use it, but it's too much work to prevent add-ons from updating. It has to be done manually inside the add-on itself by editing the IP. As it is they can change the tos whenever and install it without giving anyone a chance to say gfy.

  • Homple||

    I think it's important to choose corporate management and hire employees based on their political opinions. That way you get the best people for the job. Hey, it worked well in the Soviet days, didn't it?

  • Stilgar||

    You mean the same Mozilla that is scooping up your entire browsing history without telling you? All in the name of "helping" you? Whether Mozilla has access to the info or not, it is a wealth of data being left on every pc using the latest editions of firefox. More info here and/or google netpredictions.sqlite

  • John Galt||

    We're all virtually naked anytime we use the Internet. Using Firefox can't change that.

  • ||

    Bug 881804 - add interface for predictive actions


    Comparing FF using predictive pre-connect based on browsing history stored locally (which, btw, would be saved and stored regardless unless operating in private mode, as is the case with every other browser - hit ctrl-H right now) to the data collection policies of certain other browsers is frankly pretty silly. Especially considering the network seer isn't enabled by default in the stable build (at least not mine - bear in mind you're running unfinished code with a nightly build). The feature is also, as you'll see at the above reference, integrated with private mode and the "clear private data" command in FF. I don't really understand what the panic is. It's the same history data the browser would otherwise be storing anyway, the only reason it ends up in a separate sqlite database is to make it available to the seer backend. And the database can be cleared in the same manner that ordinary history data would. And you can turn it off if you want to.

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