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Is firefox a spyfox?

The new firefox Quantum aka firefox version 57 is quite talkative and while it is possible that there are some good intentions behind a new tab with suggestions and highlights it raises as well a lot of concerns. This is my computer and it has to do what I want. I don't want anybody to give me suggestions and while doing that they learn a great deal about my preferences and they can build a profile about me and my computer. Yes, google might do that when I go to google.com or when they display their adds on web sites but firefox has the means to do it every time I power my PC on. They they could track my time and my routines. That's a step further.

I turn all those things off! My start page is my own home web server and firefox looks now nice and clean.

However the other day I had wireshark running and there was firefox talking to detectportal.firefox.com. What is this? I have everything off and firefox should only go to the URLs that I tell it to go to. It turns out that firefox is testing for captive portals. Those are the login pages you find e.g at air-port WIFIs where you have to login first. ... and by having this neat feature they get a counter and a timestamp that tells them when I start firefox on my desktop. As a side effect they know exactly how many people use firefox, which version and on which operating system.

Incredible! Why is there no button in the preference section to turn this off or make users aware of it? Maybe because it's spyware under the cover of a useful feature.

firefox might be watching you even if everything is off and at max privacy
firefox might be watching you even if everything is off and at max privacy


Fortunately there is however a way to turn it off but it is very much hidden. Type about:config in the URL bar, accept the risk and search for
network.captive-portal-service.enabled
set this to false.

It find it quite disappointing that I had to discover this feature with wireshark. Mozilla is advertising firefox saying that privacy is so important. It's all fake. There would be a setting under preference called "enable captive portal detection" if privacy was really important for mozilla because all of the desktop computers will never need that feature unless this feature is really about something else: spying on users and keeping track of who is using which version of firefox.

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