Getting to Know Telemetry and Data Privacy at Mozilla (Non-Geeks Only)

WHILE on his travel around some parts of South East Asia, Georg Fritsche doesn’t forget to share the virtue of his organization, Mozilla. Having worked for the entity for the recent six years, the German-born geek sat down with us at Mozilla Community Space Jakarta at Tifa Building , Annex Suite, Kuningan Barat, Jakarta.

For audience familiar with data and web, what Georg exposed here is perhaps very brief and superficial. Yet, to most of people like me and some of you who mostly use computers as a tool to browse the web and process and save multiple types of content such as words, images and videos, the discussion is so technical I can’t even recall the gist of the talks. At all.

But do NOT blame it all on George, because I know how hard it is to simplify the highly complicated issue within one single meetup. I can tell you the same feeling when your grandparents demand you a simple and easily-understood explanation on questions such as “what is internet?”. Analogies may work but it also betrays you on some occasions like a pet snake. It bites you when you least expect it.

Despite all the gaps of knowledge and expertise lying so wide between us, here are several takeaways I can offer you as a complete and utter layman in the realm of internet.

  • Telemetry which is what Goerg does at Mozilla is actually a series of efforts to collect data of users conducted on daily basis. But what separates Mozilla and the others is the commitment to its mission, i.e. to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. That also means they also collect data from users but at the same time they give us as users more openness, transparency and freedom as to what they do with data and how they collect these data. Though it is set as default, any users can simply turn  it off or opt out of the telemetry by unchecking a box in the tab on Privacy. For Mozilla Firefox which I gues is the most popular product of Mozilla, to opt out of Telemetry, you type “about:preferences#privacy” in the address bar and locate “Firefox Data Collection and Use”. Uncheck the box that preceedes “Allow Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla” as well as “Allow Firefox to install and run studies”. In brief, users have more control over their data.
  • No data of users will be sold whatsoever. This is guaranteed by Mozilla. Because privacy really matters, unlike other internet giants, user data collected by Mozilla are never about your identity, such as your name and your whereabouts.
  • There is no surprises. And by surprises, I assume it is “unsolicited” surprises that no one will be happy with.
  • Even Mozilla collects data, they limit data. They only collect  data they require to improve the performance of products. Mozilla, said Georg, doesn’t collect data that are deemed unnecessary and too private by nature. It makes sense because the company doesn’t sell data and make profits of them.

As the discussion went deeper, I came to the conclusion that Mozilla products collect our data, too, just like other products on the web. The difference is you know your data is in the right hand. Not in the greasy hands of ‘big brothers’ who abuse and exploit you for their own interests once they get tired of spoiling you with great ease and comfort of exchanging information and data.

For further study, kindly visit https://telemetry.mozilla.org (if you can read and interpret the data displayed there). In case you are curious, click about:telemetry. But if you already give up, tweet Georg at @georgfritsche or @moztelemetry. Good luck! (*/)