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Analysis of Google’s Privacy Budget Proposal

Mozilla Blog - vr, 01/10/2021 - 18:00

Fingerprinting is a major threat to user privacy on the Web. Fingerprinting uses existing properties of your browser like screen size, installed add-ons, etc. to create a unique or semi-unique identifier which it can use to track you around the Web. Even if individual values are not particularly unique, the combination of values can be unique (e.g., how many people are running Firefox Nightly, live in North Dakota, have an M1 Mac and a big monitor, etc.)

This post discusses a proposal by Google to address fingerprinting called the Privacy Budget. The idea behind the Privacy Budget is to estimate the amount of information revealed by each piece of fingerprinting information (called a “fingerprinting surface”, e.g., screen resolution) and then limit the total amount of that information a site can obtain about you. Once the site reaches that limit (the “budget”), further attempts to learn more about you would fail, perhaps by reporting an error or returning a generic value. This idea has been getting a fair amount of attention and has been proposed as a potential privacy mitigation in some in-development W3C specifications.

While this seems like an attractive idea, our detailed analysis of the proposal raises questions about its feasibility.  We see a number of issues:

  • Estimating the amount of information revealed by a single surface is quite difficult. Moreover, because some values will be much more common than others, any total estimate is misleading. For instance, the Chrome browser has many users and so learning someone uses Chrome is not very identifying; by contrast, learning that someone uses Firefox Nightly is quite identifying because there are few Nightly users.
  • Even if we are able to set a common value for the budget, it is unclear how to determine whether a given set of queries exceeds that value. The problem is that these queries are not independent and so you can’t just add up each query. For instance, screen width and screen height are highly correlated and so once a site has queried one, learning the other is not very informative.
  • Enforcement is likely to lead to surprising and disruptive site breakage because sites will exceed the budget and then be unable to make API calls which are essential to site function. This will be exacerbated because the order in which the budget is used is nondeterministic and depends on factors such as the network performance of various sites, so some users will experience breakage and others will not.
  • It is possible that the privacy budget mechanism itself can be used for tracking by exhausting the budget with a particular pattern of queries and then testing to see which queries still work (because they already succeeded).

While we understand the appeal of a global solution to fingerprinting — and no doubt this is the motivation for the Privacy Budget idea appearing in specifications — the underlying problem here is the large amount of fingerprinting-capable surface that is exposed to the Web. There does not appear to be a shortcut around addressing that. We believe the best approach is to minimize the easy-to-access fingerprinting surface by limiting the amount of information exposed by new APIs and gradually reducing the amount of information exposed by existing APIs. At the same time, browsers can and should attempt to detect abusive patterns by sites and block those sites, as Firefox already does.

This post is part of a series of posts analyzing privacy-preserving advertising proposals.

For more on this:

Building a more privacy-preserving ads-based ecosystem

The future of ads and privacy

Privacy analysis of FLoC

Mozilla responds to the UK CMA consultation on google’s commitments on the Chrome Privacy Sandbox

Privacy analysis of and Unified ID 2.0

The post Analysis of Google’s Privacy Budget Proposal appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet

Superhero passwords may be your kryptonite wherever you go online

Mozilla Blog - vr, 01/10/2021 - 15:00

A password is like a key to your house. In the online world, your password keeps your house of personal information safe, so a super strong password is like having a superhero in a fight of good vs. evil. In recognition of Cybersecurity Awareness month, we revisited our “Princesses make terrible passwords for Disney+ and every other account,” and took a look to see how fortified superhero passwords are in the fight against hackers and breaches. According to, take a look at the how many times these superhero passwords have showed up in breached datasets:

And if you thought maybe their real identities might make for a better password, think again!

Lucky for you, we’ve got a family of products from a company you can trust, Mozilla, a mission-driven company with a 20-year track record of fighting for online privacy and a healthier internet. Here are your best tools in the fight against hackers and breaches:

Keep passwords safe from cyber threats with this new Firefox super power on Firefox on Android

This Cybersecurity Awareness month, we added new features for Firefox on Android, to keep your passwords safe. You might not have every password memorized by heart, nor do you need to when you use Firefox. With Firefox, users will be able to seamlessly access Firefox saved passwords. This means you can use any password you’ve saved in the browser to log into any online account like your Twitter or Instagram app. No need to open a web page. It’s that seamless and simple. Plus, you can also use biometric security, such as your face or fingerprint, to unlock the app and safely access your accounts. These new features will be available next Tuesday with the latest Firefox on Android release. Here are more details on the upcoming new features:

  • Creating and adding new passwords is easy – Now, when you create an account for any app on your mobile device, you can also create and add a new password, which you can save directly in the Firefox browser and you can use it on both mobile and desktop.  
Create and add new passwords
  • Take your passwords with you on the go – Now you can easily autofill your password on your phone and use any password you’ve saved in the browser to log into any online account like your Twitter or Instagram app. No need to open a web page. Plus, if you have a Firefox account then you can sync all your passwords across desktop and mobile devices. It’s that seamless and simple. 
Sync all your passwords across desktop and mobile devices
  • Unlock your passwords with your fingerprint and face – Now only you can safely open your accounts when you use biometric security such as your fingerprint or face to unlock the access page to your logins and passwords.
Forget J.A.R.V.I.S, keep informed of hacks and breaches with Firefox Monitor 

Avoid your spidey senses from tingling every time you hear about hacks and breaches by signing up with Firefox Monitor. You’ll be able to keep an eye on your accounts once you sign up for Firefox Monitor and get alerts delivered to your email whenever there’s been a data breach or if your accounts have been hacked.

X Ray vision won’t work on a Virtual Private Network like Mozilla VPN

One of the reasons people use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), an encrypted connection that serves as a tunnel between your computer and VPN server, is to protect themselves whenever they use a public WiFi network. It sounds harmless, but public WiFi networks can be like a backdoor for hackers. With a VPN, you can rest assured you’re safe whenever you use the public WiFi network at your local cafe or library. Find and use a trusted VPN provider like our Mozilla VPN, a fast and easy-to-use VPN service. Thousands of people have signed up to subscribe to our Mozilla VPN, which provides encryption and device-level protection of your connection and information when you are on the Web.

How did we get these numbers? Unfortunately, we don’t have a J.A.R.V.I.S, so we looked these up in We couldn’t access any data files, browse lists of passwords or link passwords to logins — that info is inaccessible and kept secure — but we could look up random passwords manually. Current numbers on the site may be higher than at time of publication as new datasets are added to HIBP. Alas, data breaches keep happening. There’s no time like the present to make sure all your passwords are built like Ironman.

The post Superhero passwords may be your kryptonite wherever you go online appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet

Location history: How your location is tracked and how you can limit sharing it

Mozilla Blog - wo, 22/09/2021 - 00:00

In real estate, the age old mantra is “location, location, location,” meaning that location drives value. That’s true even when it comes to data collection in the online world, too — your location history is valuable, authentic information. In all likelihood, you’re leaving a breadcrumb trail of location data every day, but there are a few things you can do to clean that up and keep more of your goings-on to yourself. 

What is location history?

When your location is tracked and stored over time, it becomes a body of data called your location history. This is rich personal data that shows when you have been at specific locations, and can include things like frequency and duration of visits and stops along the way. Connecting all of that location history, companies can create a detailed picture and make inferences about who you are, where you live and work, your interests, habits, activities, and even some very private things you might not want to share at all.

How is location data used?

For some apps, location helps them function better, like navigating with a GPS or following a map. Location history can also be useful for retracing your steps to past places, like finding your way back to that tiny shop in Florence where you picked up beautiful stationery two years ago.

On the other hand, marketing companies use location data for marketing and advertising purposes. They can also use location to conduct “geomarketing,” which is targeting you with promotions based on where you are. Near a certain restaurant while you’re out doing errands at midday? You might see an ad for it on your phone just as you’re thinking about lunch.

Location can also be used to grant or deny access to certain content. In some parts of the world, content on the internet is “geo-blocked” or geographically-restricted based on your IP address, which is kind of like a mailing address, associated with your online activity. Geo-blocking can happen due to things like copyright restrictions, limited licensing rights or even government control. 

Who can view your location data?

Any app that you grant permission to see your location has access to it. Unless you carefully read each data policy or privacy policy, you won’t know how your location data — or any personal data — collected by your apps is used. 

Websites can also detect your general location through your IP address or by asking directly what your location is, and some sites will take it a step further by requesting more specifics like your zip code to show you different site content or search results based on your locale.

How to disable location request prompts

Tired of websites asking for your location? Here’s how to disable those requests:

Firefox: Type “about:preferences#privacy” in the URL bar. Go to Permissions > Location > Settings. Select “Block new requests asking to access your location”. Get more details about location sharing in Firefox.

Safari: Go to Settings > Websites > Location. Select “When visiting other websites: Deny.”

Chrome: Go to Settings > Privacy and security > Site Settings. Then click on Location and select “Don’t allow sites to see your location”

Edge: Go to Settings and more > Settings > Site permissions > Location. Select “Ask before accessing”

Limit, protect and delete your location data

Most devices have the option to turn location tracking off for the entire device or for select apps. Here’s how to view and change your location privacy settings:

How to delete your Google Location History
Ready to delete your Google Location History in one fell swoop? There’s a button for that.

It’s also a good idea to review all of the apps on your devices. Check to see if you’re sharing your location with some that don’t need it all or even all the time. Some of them might be set up just to get your location, and give you little benefit in return while sharing it with a network of third parties. Consider deleting apps that you don’t use or whose service you could just as easily get through a mobile browser where you might have better location protection.

Blur your device’s location for next-level privacy Learn more about Mozilla VPN

The post Location history: How your location is tracked and how you can limit sharing it appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet

Did you hear about Apple’s security vulnerability? Here’s how to find and remove spyware.

Mozilla Blog - ma, 20/09/2021 - 18:00

Spyware has been in the news recently with stories like the Apple security vulnerability that allowed devices to be infected without the owner knowing it, and a former editor of The New York Observer being charged with a felony for unlawfully spying on his spouse with spyware. Spyware is a sub-category of malware that’s aimed at surveilling the behavior of human target(s) using a given device where the spyware is running. This surveillance could include but is not limited to logging keystrokes, capturing what websites you are visiting, looking at your locally stored files/passwords, and capturing audio or video within proximity to the device.

How does spyware work?

Spyware, much like any other malware, doesn’t just appear on a device. It often needs to first be installed or initiated. Depending on what type of device, this could manifest in a variety of ways, but here are a few specific examples:

  • You could visit a website with your web browser and a pop-up prompts you to install a browser extension or addon.
  • You could visit a website and be asked to download and install some software you weren’t there to get.
  • You could visit a website that prompts you to access your camera or audio devices, even though the website doesn’t legitimately have that need.
  • You could leave your laptop unlocked and unattended in a public place, and someone could install spyware on your computer.
  • You could share a computer or your password with someone, and they secretly install the spyware on your computer.
  • You could be prompted to install a new and unknown app on your phone.
  • You install pirated software on your computer, but this software additionally contains spyware functionality.

With all the above examples, the bottom line is that there could be software running with a surveillance intent on your device. Once installed, it’s often difficult for a lay person to have 100% confidence that their device can be trusted again, but for many the hard part is first detecting that surveillance software is running on your device.

How to detect spyware on your computer and phone

As mentioned above, spyware, like any malware, can be elusive and hard to spot, especially for a layperson. However, there are some ways by which you might be able to detect spyware on your computer or phone that aren’t overly complicated to check for.


On many types of video camera devices, you get a visual indication that the video camera is recording. These are often a hardware controlled light of some kind that indicates the device is active. If you are not actively using your camera and these camera indicator lights are on, this could be a signal that you have software on your device that is actively recording you, and it could be some form of spyware. 

Here’s an example of what camera indicator lights look like on some Apple devices, but active camera indicators come in all kinds of colors and formats, so be sure to understand how your device works. A good way to test is to turn on your camera and find out exactly where these indicator lights are on your devices.

Additionally, you could make use of a webcam cover. These are small mechanical devices that allow users to manually open and shut cameras only when in use. These are generally a very cheap and low-tech way to protect snooping via cameras.


One pretty basic means to detect malicious spyware on systems is simply reviewing installed applications, and only keeping applications you actively use installed.

On Apple devices, you can review your applications folder and the app store to see what applications are installed. If you notice something is installed that you don’t recognize, you can attempt to uninstall it. For Windows computers, you’ll want to check the Apps folder in your Settings

Web extensions

Many browsers, like Firefox or Chrome, have extensive web extension ecosystems that allow users to customize their browsing experience. However, it’s not uncommon for malware authors to utilize web extensions as a medium to conduct surveillance activities of a user’s browsing activity.

On Firefox, you can visit about:addons and view all your installed web extensions. On Chrome, you can visit chrome://extensions and view all your installed web extensions. You are basically looking for any web extensions that you didn’t actively install on your own. If you don’t recognize a given extension, you can attempt to uninstall it or disable it.

Add features to Firefox to make browsing faster, safer or just plain fun. Get quality extensions, recommended by Firefox. How do you remove spyware from your device?

If you recall an odd link, attachment, download or website you interacted with around the time you started noticing issues, that could be a great place to start when trying to clean your system. There are various free online tools you can leverage to help get a signal on what caused the issues you are experiencing. VirusTotal, UrlVoid and HybridAnalysis are just a few examples. These tools can help you determine when the compromise of your system occurred. How they can do this varies, but the general idea is that you give it the file or url you are suspicious of, and it will return a report to you showing what various computer security companies know about the file or url. A point of infection combined with your browser’s search history would give you a starting point of various accounts you will need to double check for signs of fraudulent or malicious activity after you have cleaned your system. This isn’t entirely necessary in order to clean your system, but it helps jumpstart your recovery from a compromise.

There are a couple of paths that can be followed in order to make sure any spyware is entirely removed from your system and give you peace of mind:

Install an antivirus (AV) software from a well-known company and run scans on your system

  • If you have a Windows device, Windows Defender comes pre-installed, and you should double-check that you have it turned on.
  • If you currently have an AV software installed, make sure it’s turned on and that it’s up to date. Should it fail to identify and remove the spyware from your system, then it’s on to one of the following options.

Run a fresh install of your system’s operating system

  • While it might be tempting to backup files you have on your system, be careful and remember that your device was compromised and the file causing the issue could end up back on your system and again compromising it.
  • The best way to do this would be to wipe the hard drive of your system entirely, and then reinstall from an external device.
How can you protect yourself from getting spyware?

There are a lot of ways to help keep your devices safe from spyware, and in the end it can all be boiled down to employing a little healthy skepticism and practicing good basic digital hygiene. These tips will help you stay on the right track:

Be wary. Don’t click on links, open/download attachments from unknown senders. This applies to both messaging apps as well as emails. 

Stay updated. Take the time to install updates/patches. This helps make sure your devices and apps are protected against known issues.

Check legitimacy. If you aren’t sure if a website or email is giving legitimate information, take the time to use your favorite search engine to find the legitimate website. This helps avoid issues with typos potentially leading you to a bad website

Use strong passwords. Ensure all your devices have solid passwords that are not shared. It’s easier to break into a house that isn’t locked.

Delete extras. Remove applications you don’t use anymore. This reduces the total attack surface you are exposing, and has the added bonus of saving space for things you care about.

Use security settings. Enable built in browser security features. By default, Firefox is on the lookout for malware and will alert you to Deceptive Content and Dangerous Software.

The post Did you hear about Apple’s security vulnerability? Here’s how to find and remove spyware. appeared first on The Mozilla Blog.

Categorieën: Mozilla-nl planet