Mozilla may be a non-profit organization, but that doesn’t of course mean it’s not interested in raising some cash on the sides. Even if the court of public opinion says otherwise. Months after it launched its contentious Directory Tiles, it has rather silently started pushing its perhaps even more criticized Suggested Tiles feature to the Firefox browser. Unlike the previous Directory Tiles, this one is clearly, and formally, more advertisement centric. But don’t worry, as Mozilla claims it hasn’t made a profit from it. Yet.
In May, Mozilla revealed its plans to put more than just your own tiles on your New Tab page. Suggested Tiles are a means to surface interesting or relevant content to users, which is, of course, another way of saying “ads”. While advertisements are a legit form business, the sometimes in your face nature of ads, not to mentions sometimes privacy-invading tendencies, have not endeared them to Mozilla’s particular user base.
Of course, Mozilla assures Firefox users that their privacy is being kept sacred and protected. That said, as targeted ads, Suggested Tiles do get access to some of your actions in Firefox. Mozilla has enumerated some actions that are collected, like what users do to a tile. These are stored in Mozilla’s servers before being processed into high end aggregate reports which are then sent to advertisers. No personally identifiable information is handed out, Mozillla promises. More than that, Mozilla says that Suggested Tiles will actually show why it’s being suggested to the user. Transparent ads, so to speak.
Despite the initial and vocal opposition to the feature, Mozilla has apparently pushed through with its plans. This time, however, with less publicity. Perhaps so as not to rouse the hornet’s nest. But also probably because it still isn’t something Mozilla can boast of as a success. It is actually still looking for advertisers, companies and people that will give it money to showcase their websites in Tiles. For now, however, Mozilla isn’t earning a single cent.
And for users who are appalled by this development, there is always a way out, short of changing loyalties. New tabs can be configured not to show Suggested Tiles or no Tiles at all, which hopefully turns off all advertising-related reporting as well.