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[P]
Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features removed?

By kmself in News
Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:20:36 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Ben Woodard posted to SVLUG that AOL's management decreed that a Mozilla M15 privacy feature be stripped from the browser -- it's a panel control to allow much greater user control over cookies and images by users, without requiring use of additional software such as JunkBuster, webclean, or squid filters to create a personal blacklist of advertisers.

Update [2000-5-8 23:48:6 by rusty]: Blake Ross points out that AOL and Netscape are still very much separate entities, and that if anyone did any "managerial decreeing" it would have been Netscape, and not AOL. The title has been changed to reflect this. See his comment below.


The panel was included in M15 under advanced in the edit preferences dialog called cookies and images, and scored a great victory for privacy. Currently, most users have to trust in privacy policies posted by on-line advertising and tracking companies, which may change without notice.

The AOL meddling is pretty blunt:

------- Additional Comments From Blake Ross 2000-04-16 20:19 -------

I noticed this a couple days ago and commented on it; Steve (Morse) of NS wrote me back letting me know that management had told them to strip the feature. His words: "It went the way of management decree." Because of this, marking WONTFIX.

...this is a pretty clear illustration of how AOL is willing and able to use its power within the mozilla community to subvert the interests of the public.

I'm reminded of an NPR Talk of the Nation program on Online Profiling, featuring the Center for Democracy and Technology", in which my comment was that browser manufacturers have far more incentives to cater to the needs and desires of business and merchandisers than of individuals and privacy. I think I called that one....

"Me thinks a protest is in order," says Ben. I agree.

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Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features removed? | 30 comments (30 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Has AOL given any explanation for r... (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by nicktamm on Mon May 08, 2000 at 08:48:57 PM EST

nicktamm voted 1 on this story.

Has AOL given any explanation for removing it? Did they at least make up something lame like it was too complicated for users to understand or something?
Nick Tamm nick-k5@echorequest.net http://www.nicktamm.org

Mozilla users (none / 0) (#16)
by feline on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:54:47 PM EST

Most mozilla users probably wouldn't have much of a problem figuring out something as simple as this, just to alay your first theory.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Wow. Well, thank God it's open sour... (4.00 / 1) (#1)
by rusty on Mon May 08, 2000 at 08:59:32 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Wow. Well, thank God it's open source. Worst-case, we can take it and fork if AOL decides that they need to "control" the direction of development. FreeZilla anyone? :-)

____
Not the real rusty

The news that the banner-mongering ... (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by dmarti on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:00:32 PM EST

dmarti voted 1 on this story.

The news that the banner-mongering sites won't print.

WTF?!??? So, since they own Netsca... (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by Zarniwoop on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:00:48 PM EST

Zarniwoop voted 1 on this story.

WTF?!??? So, since they own Netscape now, they have decided that they can control Mozilla? I thought that Moz was its own entity. Looks like AOL has finally crossed that last bound. The assholes have, once and for all, proved how much they really do suck.

This sucks. I'll be downloading m15... (2.00 / 1) (#10)
by adric on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:07:29 PM EST

adric voted 1 on this story.

This sucks. I'll be downloading m15-src if anybody needs me.

... (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by your_desired_username on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:17:43 PM EST

your_desired_username voted 1 on this story.

Some projgects, like GCC, have a steering comitee, that exists precisely to prevent one companies monetary considerations from controlling the product.

For mozzillia, one must fork the codebase, or provide separate patches. I think one of these two options must be taken. I wish konquerer was a suitable replacement for mozillia.

I guess i don't understand the rela... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by pretzelgod on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:21:00 PM EST

pretzelgod voted 1 on this story.

I guess i don't understand the relationship between AOL/Netscape and mozilla.org as well as i thought. I thought that mozilla was kind of like a separate project from Netscape, with Netscape developers participating in it? Can't one of the non-Netscape developers add the code back?

-- 
Ever heard of the School of the Americas?


Somehow I'm not suprised. ... (4.00 / 3) (#2)
by mattc on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:29:23 PM EST

mattc voted 1 on this story.

Somehow I'm not suprised.

Time to move the free software community's efforts to Konquerer -- which IMO, is as good as Mozilla. Personally, I don't even use KDE, but Konquerer runs fine outside of KDE. Also it is under the GPL.

If you don't mind using closed-source, there is always Opera. They should be releasing a new beta version (previously they only released 'technology previews') towards the middle of the month.

<ConspiracyTheory>Hmm... Thi... (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by Acapnotic on Mon May 08, 2000 at 09:44:25 PM EST

Acapnotic voted 1 on this story.

<ConspiracyTheory>Hmm... This raises the question: Who do you want leading the development of your browser, a <a href= "http://www.microsoft.com/" >megalomaniacal software company, or a media company?
</ConspiracyTheory>



Again. Corporate amaerica throwing ... (3.00 / 1) (#8)
by tidepool on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:06:36 PM EST

tidepool voted 1 on this story.

Again. Corporate amaerica throwing its weight around at other 'little guys'. While the mozilla project may be large (ok, ok, huge) for an open source project, it's still nothing under the AOL empire. Sad, really.
-Ben

Re: Again. Corporate amaerica throwing ... (none / 0) (#17)
by feline on Mon May 08, 2000 at 11:02:01 PM EST

Well, I wouldn't really say that Mozilla is that "huge" of a project. Yes, it has a whole bunch of users. Yes, it's the first real hurtle-breaker of open source browsers. Yes, it's recieved a lot of attention from the media

But still, do you bother to read bugzilla? Did you happen to notice that nearly all of the entries are from *@netscape.com?

Mozilla is still a much too close project to be romatisized about like it is.
------------------------------------------

'Hello sir, you don't look like someone who satisfies his wife.'
[ Parent ]

Very Insightful.... ... (1.00 / 1) (#13)
by AArthur on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:11:18 PM EST

AArthur voted 1 on this story.

Very Insightful....

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264

Ouch. I didnt know AOL had so much ... (2.00 / 1) (#5)
by inspire on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:13:23 PM EST

inspire voted 1 on this story.

Ouch. I didnt know AOL had so much control over Mozilla's development.
--
What is the helix?

So, I can't use Mozilla going forwa... (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by deimos on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:20:36 PM EST

deimos voted 1 on this story.

So, I can't use Mozilla going forward. I can't use IE. Hmm, I'll just use either and deny all cookies period. F them.
irc.kuro5hin.org: Good Monkeys, Great Typewriters.

Re: AOL orders Mozilla privacy features removed (3.80 / 10) (#14)
by BlakeRoss on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:31:58 PM EST

As usual, news sites just can't get it right. Yes, I am the Blake referred to in the story. And no, this article isn't correct. AOL had little to nothing to do with this decision. Like the other news sites, this one just couldn't wait to jump on the "Big corporation stomps all over open source, blocks development!" bandwagon. What follows (in its entirety) is a copy of the letter I sent to the authors of this story (who contacted me to "get the other side of the story", but in reality, couldn't wait more than an hour to post the story - other side of the story or not).... "Hey there Rusty: I've forwarded your letter to Steve Morse [morse@netscape.com], the Netscape engineer currently handling the image blocking prefs. I feel he can better comment on the situation, being a NSCP employee. I would greatly appreciate if you would hold the story until I (or you) hear back from him; I'm not sure how he'll take to the idea of his name specifically being the one to mention that the feature "went the way of management decree". I'd also like to point out that AOL management likely had little to nothing to do with such a decision; Netscape is still a separate entity, and remains very indepedent from the affairs of America Online. It often angers me (in general) to see news resources jump on the idea of AOL "censoring" Netscape, since it has very little influence in the development of Mozilla and NS 6. I'd also like to point out that there's still quite a easy way to get the image blocking preferences back (IMHO, I believe they were removed in the first place because it is ads that heavily supports Netcenter), by adding a certain line in your prefs.js file. Feel free to mention that there's still an easy method of retrieving feature, though I'd rather not have you publicize the actual line of text used (unless, of course, Steve grants you permission - he has the final say in everything here). If you are going to use my name in the article, I'd also appreciate it if you'd link it to my email address (BlakeR1234@aol.com, as Bugzilla does it), so that if I do make attempts to clarify the story via comments, people won't doubt my identity. Again, Steve Morse is really the guy to talk to about this. Your site would greatly benefit from hearing "the other side of the story," and would certainly set you aside from all the other "me-too" news sites out there (thus, I'd rather you wait until you hear back from Steve). Thanks again, Blake Ross" Unfortunately, this news site couldn't wait. I'll let Steve Morse of Netscape clarify the situation here. And for all those "Mozilla sucks! Down with AOL and censorship!" people, can you _please_ wait to hear the other side of things? America Online and Mozilla are *completely* unrelated organizations. AOL owns Netscape. Not Mozilla.

Re: AOL orders Mozilla privacy features removed (4.00 / 4) (#15)
by rusty on Mon May 08, 2000 at 10:53:08 PM EST

Yes, the above is Blake Ross from the story, and I'm very sorry you didn't wait for my reply, Blake. While we're posting emails publically, here was my response, explaining, among other things, why I didn't feel comfortable holding the story. If anyone else thinks I'm being unreasonable, please do let me know.

BlakeR1234@aol.com wrote:
> 
> Hey there Rusty:
> 
>         I've forwarded your letter to Steve Morse [morse@netscape.com], the
> Netscape engineer currently handling the image blocking prefs.  I feel he can
> better comment on the situation, being a NSCP employee.
> 
>         I would greatly appreciate if you would hold the story until I (or
> you) hear back from him; 

Unfortunately, the story was posted as I was reading this message, so
it's no longer possible to hold it. I did add an update cautioning
people not to overreact-- you can see the story here:
http://www.kuro5hin.org/?op=displaystory&sid=2000/5/8/203537/1244

K5 does tend to have relatively level-headed readers. If there's a
sensible explanation for all this, I'm very certain they will listen
closely to the Netscape/AOL side of things before going off on a flaming
frenzy.

About Steve Morse being named, the quote in question is from the public
Bugzilla archive, and is available to anyone who looks at the link
anyway. Like I said, I am more than willing to hear and make equally
public his side of the story. You may not be familiar with how Kuro5hin
works-- the readers submit stories, and they also post them, through
voting. Any logged-in user can vote on stories, and it takes a score of
2% of the total number of users to post a story (currently running
around 27). So, I am not so much an editor as a technical admin and
occasional contributor to the site. This is all by way of explaining why
there's really no tactful way for me to prevent a story being posted, if
the readers think it's worthy of posting. And they thought this one was,
by a wide margin. 

Please don't misinterpret my intentions here. I really want to get both
sides of the story. As soon as you (or you, Steve) have a response, I
will post it. I just can't go pulling stories that the readers have
clearly demonstrated they're interested in. I hope you see my side of
it. :-)

> I'm not sure how he'll take to the idea of his name
> specifically being the one to mention that the feature "went the way of
> management decree".  I'd also like to point out that AOL management likely
> had little to nothing to do with such a decision; Netscape is still a
> separate entity, and remains very indepedent from the affairs of America
> Online.  It often angers me (in general) to see news resources jump on the
> idea of AOL "censoring" Netscape, since it has very little influence in the
> development of Mozilla and NS 6.

This is what I, and most everyone else, thought too, which is why the
story was so surprising. Please correct us, if it's not the case.

> 
>         I'd also like to point out that there's still quite a easy way to get
> the image blocking preferences back (IMHO, I believe they were removed in the
> first place because it is ads that heavily supports Netcenter), by adding a
> certain line in your prefs.js file.  Feel free to mention that there's still
> an easy method of retrieving feature, though I'd rather not have you
> publicize the actual line of text used (unless, of course, Steve grants you
> permission - he has the final say in everything here).
> 
>         If you are going to use my name in the article, I'd also appreciate
> it if you'd link it to my email address (BlakeR1234@aol.com, as Bugzilla does
> it), so that if I do make attempts to clarify the story via comments, people
> won't doubt my identity.

Updated.

> 
>         Again, Steve Morse is really the guy to talk to about this.  Your
> site would greatly benefit from hearing "the other side of the story," and
> would certainly set you aside from all the other "me-too" news sites out
> there (thus, I'd rather you wait until you hear back from Steve).

Unfortunately, as explained above, the very feature that does set us
aside from all the other "me too" sites more or less prevents me from
holding a story back. We accept submissions at the email address
editors@kuro5hin.org, if a reader decides they'd like editing or review
of their story, but if they decide to post it directly, it is there for
everyone to see, immediately, so I have to decide if I want to pull a
story and face the wrath of the readers, or let them decide, and update
it as new information becomes available. I generally choose the latter,
as overall site policy.

Thank you for your prompt reply. I hope we can satisfy you that the
truth is being told.

--R


____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: AOL orders Mozilla privacy features removed (4.50 / 2) (#25)
by pvg on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:22:42 AM EST

Nothing unreasonable here. k5 is not a site with strong editorial control - it's atypical in that so it's not surprising Blake Ross thought you could and should hold the story.

While I think k5 is approaching the point where a more sophisticated collaborative and personalized filtering is in order (most stories pass, quality is much more variable than previously) it is more of a community and social undertaking than a pure technology experiment. I think you're doing the right thing by sticking to the important principle - k5 is about user-selected, user-approved content. It is perfectly normal for content that is incomplete or even inaccurate to occasionaly show up on the front page. Better voting, filtering, etc will improve the 'hit ratio' of stories as Scoop evolves. In the meantime, I think I can live with MLP and offended AOL employees - 'YOU choose the stories!' is the important thing and it's good to see you are ensuring it remains true.

[ Parent ]

The other other side responds, and the fix (4.00 / 3) (#21)
by kmself on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:25:49 AM EST

Blake and I have been exchanging emails as well (I wanted to confirm that this was his post), and I do apologize for any appearance of one-sidedness or factual inaccuracies.

I do stand by the substance of my article and remarks. I feel that personal rights, and especially privacy rights, have been given short shrift by many of those who have come to commercialize the web. The substance of Blake's comments in the Bugzilla tracking system do indicate clearly that a unilateral decision was made, at some place, in some organization, concerning the persence or absense of these features.

That said, I'm far more comfortable with the appearance of privacy-limiting decisions being made about the Mozilla codebase than I would be in trusting my web browsing to entirely closed software such as Microsoft Internet Explorer. Neither the discussions of design decisions, nor the code itself are available for either examination or modification in the case of IE. At worst, as several people have mentioned, Mozilla is forked or patched (as has already happened with encryption support), or the program components are assembled by scripting tools into a fully configurable user tool.

I've met several present and past Netscape/Mozilla project members, and I do believe that for the most part they've done a really good job of respecting and fostering the respect of both the developer and user communities.

Incidentally, the fix line which restores the preferences setting is:

Add the following line to your prefs.js file:

user_pref("imageblocker.enabled", true);

(Posted to a mailing list, forwarded from Steve Morse).

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

Re: AOL orders Mozilla privacy features removed (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by ramses0 on Mon May 08, 2000 at 11:06:54 PM EST

So... I'm confused:

Is "advanced privacy preferences" removed in newer versions of mozilla? That is the most important question, because that feature single-handedly made mozilla worthwile for better browsing.

There are already ways to remove ads, block cookies, etc... would someone who is "clueful" please respond to this information?

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Re: AOL orders Mozilla privacy features removed (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by rusty on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:07:48 AM EST

No, you can still block cookies selectively, and do all the nice cookie-management stuff. Read the whole Bugzilla record for more info on what exactly the feature in question did. Basically, it allowed you to selectively block images (such as, oh, say ad banners). From Dave Hallowell (quoted from the bugzilla page):
It used to be possible to selectively allow sites to load images in exactly the same way as it is for cookies, in fact the block images listrused to be contained in the cookie manager and in the preferences menu was in the same location as the cookies menu.


____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Re: Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features remov (4.00 / 4) (#20)
by BlakeRoss on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:15:41 AM EST

This has been blown way out of proportion.

I am now hearing from other NSCP employees that this feature has only been taken out temporarily due to complications with the PSM module.

Furthermore, can you all _please_ stop assuming things from Steve's statement? Steve said it went the way of management decree. This means whatever happened to the image prefs, it came by way of a couple people labeled 'management' (not AOL management, nor AOL-related in any way, mind you). _I_ was the one who suggested the feature was stripped. In reality, this feature may be being improved on, may have been removed temporarily (this happens often to many commonly used features in testing), or a number of other things that would explain its current disappearance.

Please don't jump to conclusions.

OTOH... (none / 0) (#22)
by kmself on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:27:37 AM EST

...there might be a message about the importance of privacy options, no? <g>

Thanks for the update.

--
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
Support the EFF!!
There is no K5 cabal.
[ Parent ]

So Choose Different (4.30 / 3) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:48:28 AM EST

Go with Opera. They're incredibly responsive to user feedback, they're incredibly compliant to the standards, and the software is both small and *cheap*. Thirty bucks... you spend that in coffee every pay period!

The latest Opera (v4beta) is giving you good control over cookies (don't accept them; display before accepting; accept only from specified servers; accept all cookies automatically -- with the suboption of accepting only from the server, rejecting third-party cookies, or accepting them no matter what -- with yet another option for discarding 'em all at the end of your session).

Opera doesn't reveal your details to servers like MSIE does. Referrer logging can be disabled. Automatic window popups can be disabled. Javascript and Java can be disabled; as can automatic document loading. Sites can't pick its brains for things like your workstation name, EMail address or suchlike.

In short, it's very flexible. I've put in a request to have it work with the HOSTS file -- to let a person "drop" banner advertisements (just as a hypothetical example, mind you!) into a "127.0.0.1" domain... fingers crossed they go with it!


Re: So Choose Different (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by rusty on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:56:02 AM EST

Thirty bucks... you spend that in coffee every pay period!

A) I spend that in coffee every week. :-)
B) It's still more expensive than free, and less free than Free. They may be responsive, but I think the emotion here comes from the fact that Mozilla is a very dearly held project, and no one wants to see it go awry. I don't imagine a company can be more responsive than a project where you have direct access to the internal bug tracking. *As* responsive, maybe, but not more.

I have heard very good things about Opera's privacy features though.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features remov (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by diskiller on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:27:55 AM EST

WTF

These are features i have to demand the MOST out of my webbrowser. Proper privacy, selective ignoring of cookies, and ignoring web banner ads.

Infact, i want to be able to ignore cookies from ALL websites except for ... "slashdot, hotmail, *insert whatever".

That, and a webbrowser that shows proper HTML :)

If AOL can exert this much power over mozilla, perhaps we need a true opensource webbrowser that has no such influences. Like Konquerer.

D.



Re: Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features remov (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 06:16:40 AM EST

What about a build option? like
./configure --without-aol-restrictions
One source tree, many precompiled binaries. Of course, the mozilla version of the average AOL user will not have the cool features. But anyway, Joe Average does not fully understand what a cookie filter is. And when Joe Average will become able to understand what it is and why he wants this feature, he will also be able to locate and download an alternate binary.

[ Parent ]
Uhhhhh, I thought it was open source, right? (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by kovacsp on Tue May 09, 2000 at 07:02:46 AM EST

Wouldn't it make sense then that we can put the features back in? Perhaps better than ever, and release our own "Privacy Enhanced" version?

That was the whole point of Open Source was it not. To put the power back in the hands of the user(/developers)?

People! Calm! (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by julian on Tue May 09, 2000 at 09:14:32 AM EST

As seen on Advogato, this feature is still in Mozilla... just disabled because it's been causing problems. Netscape has the right to remove what they want from their official builds, but this stuff will remain in Mozilla. No, I'm not saying I wasn't alarmed at first, see Advogato. I'm just saying that perhaps we should all calm down a little. ;)
-- Julian (x-virge)
Re: Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features remov (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by dlc on Tue May 09, 2000 at 10:07:41 AM EST

Although this bodes ill, in general, it is not a total loss. Mozilla is an open source project. You can get M14. If you can read the code, you can find the relevant sections from M14, and add them yourself to later builds. Yeah, this sucks pretty hard (Mozilla has a pretty large codebase), but this feature, in my opinion, is worth it. Although I don't use it myself (I use a combination of custom DNS entries and Junkbuster to not see ads), I would like to be able to have this feature integrated into the browser, and will probably find the relevant sections of code myself.

darren


(darren)

Netscape orders Mozilla privacy features removed? | 30 comments (30 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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