Mozilla has a cunning new way of making you care about privacy

Privacy is one of those curious things that everyone says is extremely important, and yet nobody seems hugely fussed about the second it becomes inconvenient. Case in point: over two billion people have a “free” Facebook account, despite knowing full well that they’re actually paying for it – just with data rather than cash. Mozilla is aware of this too: just 1% of people click the Firefox Privacy Notice underneath the Firefox download button on all of their websites. It looks something like this:download_firefox-600x313

Mozilla has a cunning new way of making you care about privacy

I’m surprised it’s that high, to be honest. Although Mozilla’s privacy policy is relatively straightforward, we internet users are used to deliberately impenetrable terms and conditions. It’s uncomfortable to think about how many rights you have signed away by ticking boxes without reading – and if you think the legalese is hard to understand for adults, consider how tough it is on children. The fact that nobody reads the terms and conditions is a well known phenomenon – people have been known to give up their eldest son to claim free WiFi before in stunts drawing attention to the problem.

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But back to Mozilla, which actually does seem to care about privacy. To tackle the dismally low number of people reading about Mozilla’s privacy policy, the company is trying a different tack. Starting with Firefox 56, due 26 September, the company will be popping the privacy notice up as a second tab the first time you launch it. It will be simplified and formatted in a way that’s easier to understand, too.

“We know that many Firefox users care deeply about privacy, and we wanted to find a way to increase engagement with our privacy practices,” writes the Mozilla team in a blog post.

“We reformatted the Privacy Notice to make it more obvious what data Firefox uses and sends to Mozilla and others. Not everyone uses the same features or cares about the same things, so we layered the notice with high-level data topics and expanders to let you dig into details based on your interest. All of this is now on the second tab of Firefox after a new installation, so it’s much more accessible and user-friendly. The Privacy Info Bar became redundant with these changes, so we removed it.”

The last bit is extra important, as the company says that the Privacy Info Bar caused users to fiddle with settings that “impacted browser performance” without them “understanding the consequences.”

They’re an interesting set of changes, but I can’t help feeling that if Firefox users cared that much about privacy, the clickthrough rate on the privacy policy would be higher than 1% in the first place. More likely, it seems to me that the company is trying to highlight its privacy credentials as a point of difference, to try and shift its 5% market share upwards.

If they wanted to make people really get into reading the terms and conditions, of course, they could always turn them into a 96-page graphic novel instead.

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