If you follow tech news or my site, you have probably stumbled upon the Firefox uses Google Analytics controversy by now.
Let me refresh your memory if you have not. A user of Firefox discovered that Mozilla Firefox connects to Google Analytics when users of the browser load the Get Add-ons page of about:addons.
That page displays a remote web page on Mozilla’s website when loaded, and that’s where the Google Analytics connection comes into play.
Mozilla stated in a response that it has brokered a special deal with Google which anonymizes the data, and prevents Google from using it internally or externally.
While that is commendable, it does not touch the core of the issue that privacy-conscious users have with the implementation.
The core issue for users who criticize Mozilla for using Google Analytics is the connection to Google Analytics, or in broader terms to Google, and that Firefox does not inform users about it, or provide the means to block it by default, or that the connection happens at all.
Note: Mozilla reacted quickly to the reported issue, and Firefox users may enable Do Not Track in the browser to disable the Google Analytics script on the Get Add-ons page of the browser.
Firefox users may enable Do Not Track by loading about:preferences#privacy in the browser’s address bar, and setting the option to “always”. Note End
Mozilla may be right when it states that Google won’t touch the data because of the deal. There is no evidence that the company does otherwise, even though it would be difficult to prove that. The whole incident may be blown out of proportions, but that is not what is bothering users who criticize Mozilla for the use of Google Analytics.
What Mozilla fails to realize in my opinion is that there is a subset of Firefox users which holds the organization to higher standards than any other browser maker when it comes to privacy (except the Tor Browser guys probably).
This does not come out of the blue, as Mozilla presents itself as an organization that values user privacy and security. The fourth principle of Mozilla confirms this for instance:
Individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.
A connection to Google Analytics goes against these privacy principles, at least for Firefox users who take privacy seriously. It does not really matter whether Mozilla brokered a special deal with Google or not, what is collected and what is not, or what happens to the data that gets collected.
The fact that data lands on Google servers, and thus outside of control of Firefox users or Mozilla, is what is bothering users who criticize Mozilla for integrating the script on the page that Firefox loads.
In short: The stance that privacy conscious Firefox users have is that Firefox should never make connections to third-party sources, especially not to Google, Microsoft or any other major player in the advertising world, without user consent.