Social & Politics

Firefox Developers are Mobilizing Against Data Snooping


The resistance against the monitoring program “Prism” is rising. Under the slogan “Stop Watching Us” Firefox developers oppose the monitoring of the Internet and telephone data through the NSA (National Security Agency). FOCUS online interviewed Mozilla-pioneer Mitchell Baker about the campaign.

On Tuesday, Firefox developers started the campaign “stop watching us” with support of 90 civil rights organizations and several companies. Mozilla and its affiliates are currently collecting digital signatures on a website for an open letter to the American congress. “This way of data collection infringes the American fundamental rights for freedom and privacy”, it says in the letter. Some principles of the constitution are violated through this action. “We call upon the congress for stopping this surveillance immediately.” Moreover, the extent of the “homeland’s espionage” should be revealed and the responsibles should be held accountable.

The Internet is turning into a glasshouse

In the run-up to DLDwomen 2013 Mitchell Baker explained the background of “Stop Watching Us” campaign. Baker is chairwoman of the Mozilla foundation and its subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. Since 1999 she has been working for the Mozilla project, under whose umbrella the Firefox browser has been developed. Among other honors, she received the Aenne-Burda-Award at DLD 2010. Explaining how the campaign “Stop Watching Us” emerged, Mitchell Baker compares the real and the virtual world: “Imagine that you would live in a world where every building is made out of glass and there wouldn´t be any venetian blinds or curtains. The Internet is turning more and more into this kind of world.”

The state as a data collector

In the opinion of Mozilla pioneer, web browsers play a crucial role in this development: "For example, when using commercial offers or when shopping online, we currently have little opportunity to shield us from being watched by the outside. Websites are technically able to record everything we do. How long we stay on a page, which ads interest us and how we move through the internet. The data collected about us can be sold. Online data can be combined with data from the real world. Thus phone companies know when we make calls, where we call from, who we call or how long we usually talk."

Even data about which Internet browser we use is being collected and analyzed. The Internet browser gives its users a voice, according to Mitchell. With the choice of the browser, users also make clear which aspects of it are of particular importance to them. Is it the browser’s speed, its strong orientation on its look matching the zeitgeist, or is it data security and privacy settings? "Data security and privacy are part of Mozilla’s DNA," said Baker.

In addition to the commercial use of our data, the surveillance program PRISM used by the U.S. secret service NSA to monitor the Internet and telephony made it clear that the state is interested in such information as well. Baker states: "Now the time has come, where we have to ask ourselves if this bothers us. Is it important for us to know how much the government is watching us without our knowledge? Where are the boundaries? Where is the limit between the protection of civil liberties / rights and national security?”

Campaign aims to put pressure on the government

"Stop Watching Us" is designed to give Internet users who ask these and similar questions, the opportunity to express their opinion towards the U.S. government. On the first day about 27 000 digital signatures were collected. “Mozilla believes in an Internet where we do not have to fear that everything we do is being tracked, monitored and logged by either companies or governments,” was the campaign’s promise when it was launched in the Mozilla blog. “And we believe in a government whose actions are visible, transparent and accountable.”

Resistance to the Collection of Data / Data Collection Mozilla does not participate in a discussion with political implications for the first time. In early 2012 the organization also got involved against the "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA), a bill for a fiercer copyright. The current Mozilla campaign is supported by nearly 90 other organizations. Growing resistance is forming within the Internet community against data collection by the U.S. security agencies pretending to do so for national security reasons Internet company. Google asked to be allowed to make public the number and scope of such requests. So far, everything is taking place in secret. Meanwhile the civil rights organizations “American Civil Liberties Union” in New York filed a lawsuit against the collection of phone call data.

This article was first published in German at Focus Online by Jörn Dreuw. The campaign “Stop Watching Us” was first reported on the DLDpulse.

Mentioned in this article

Mozilla portrait mitchell baker quad
Mitchell Baker
Executive Chairwoman
Mountain View, CA