User Personalization Proposal

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Justin Scott

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Jul 25, 2013, 11:08:18 AM7/25/13
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Hi there,

We posted a blog post this morning on a proposal for user personalization in Firefox:


We're excited to hear your thoughts about it.

Justin

Melvin Carvalho

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Jul 25, 2013, 12:48:44 PM7/25/13
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On 25 July 2013 17:08, Justin Scott <jsc...@mozilla.com> wrote:
Hi there,

We posted a blog post this morning on a proposal for user personalization in Firefox:


I love this idea of personalization.  There was an incredibly exciting similar project at mozilla labs some time back:

http://www.azarask.in/blog/post/identity-in-the-browser-firefox/

Some quotes:

[[

Your identity is too important to be owned by any one company.
Your friends are too important to be owned by any one company.

The browser is your personal and trusted agent to the web. It’s the only actor on the Internet stage which both knows everything you do on the web, and never has to let that data leave the privacy of your desktop. Your browser knows you (or, at least, should).

Identity is part of where you are, and what you are looking at (Amazon looks different depending on if you are signed in or not). That’s why we put it in the URL Bar.
For most sites, you’ll probably only have one identity, so login will be a single click or automatic.

]]

Note that this is very different from the trusted third party model of Mozilla Persona, it's more about customization of the browser, rather than, cloud storage. 

The one thing I'd love to see is for the browser to have the ability to remember who you are, which could be the basis of a personal web experience.  Amazingly the web is the only mainstream technology where you cant announce to the recipient who you are.  You can do it with the telephone (caller display), with the postal service (by writing your address on the back), or with email (with the "From:" header), but NOT with the web. 

Adding this innovation into the browser with a compelling user experience, as mocked up above, I think would be a step forward for the web.
 

We're excited to hear your thoughts about it.

Justin

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Ben Werdmuller

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Jul 25, 2013, 2:16:23 PM7/25/13
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I think this is tremendously exciting. 

The big questions for me are, how are the interests determined? Is it something that happens transparently / implicitly from usage, or drawn from a profile somewhere that a user maintains?

Speaking for myself, I'd love it if this could read from interests I publish on my IndieWeb site, or from resources I control (profiles on various sites, etc). I tell Firefox where my profile is, and it does the legwork to determine my interests (in the case of the IndieWeb, from microformats). In other words, I'm not locked into using Firefox to maintain my interests; Firefox is, instead, locked into checking the web resources of my choice. For me, that's my own site. For others, that might be their Facebook profile, etc etc etc.

Ben

Melvin Carvalho

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Jul 25, 2013, 2:17:33 PM7/25/13
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On 25 July 2013 20:16, Ben Werdmuller <ben...@gmail.com> wrote:

I think this is tremendously exciting. 

The big questions for me are, how are the interests determined? Is it something that happens transparently / implicitly from usage, or drawn from a profile somewhere that a user maintains?

Speaking for myself, I'd love it if this could read from interests I publish on my IndieWeb site, or from resources I control (profiles on various sites, etc). I tell Firefox where my profile is, and it does the legwork to determine my interests (in the case of the IndieWeb, from microformats). In other words, I'm not locked into using Firefox to maintain my interests; Firefox is, instead, locked into checking the web resources of my choice. For me, that's my own site. For others, that might be their Facebook profile, etc etc etc.

+1
 

Ben



On Thursday, July 25, 2013 8:08:18 AM UTC-7, Justin Scott wrote:
Hi there,

We posted a blog post this morning on a proposal for user personalization in Firefox:


We're excited to hear your thoughts about it.

Justin

--

Ed Lee

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Jul 25, 2013, 2:37:30 PM7/25/13
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On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 11:16 AM, Ben Werdmuller <ben...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The big questions for me are, how are the interests determined?
At a high level, the type of data Firefox can share is any data it has
access to. In our prototypes, we locally analyze existing Firefox
data, e.g., browsing history and form data, that users expect browsers
to have to provide features like history search and form fill. But
this doesn't prevent us having Firefox aggregate additional data
(perhaps at different granularity than URLs) such as your suggestion
of microformats or content on pages.

One thing we've been balancing is making sure users can understand the
data that they're sharing, so any time we add additional data sources,
we want to keep things transparent and controllable. It could be
tricky for users to act on completely opaque profiles imported from
websites.

> I tell Firefox where my profile is, and it does the legwork to determine my interests
Would you expect Firefox to somehow map/convert the referenced profile
into a "Firefox profile" or would it be a local copy of your profile
from the external source? Or perhaps Firefox provides a link to that
original profile reference?

Ed Lee

Ben Werdmuller

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Jul 25, 2013, 3:11:24 PM7/25/13
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On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM, Ed Lee <edi...@mozilla.com> wrote:
On Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 11:16 AM, Ben Werdmuller <ben...@gmail.com> wrote:
> The big questions for me are, how are the interests determined?
At a high level, the type of data Firefox can share is any data it has
access to. In our prototypes, we locally analyze existing Firefox
data, e.g., browsing history and form data, that users expect browsers
to have to provide features like history search and form fill. But
this doesn't prevent us having Firefox aggregate additional data
(perhaps at different granularity than URLs) such as your suggestion
of microformats or content on pages.

I think your first sentence is what makes this kind of functionality in the browser so interesting. It can see all of it - everything I browse on the whole web! Intelligently working out what my interests might be, in a transparent way that is non-terrifying, is a very cool idea.
 
One thing we've been balancing is making sure users can understand the
data that they're sharing, so any time we add additional data sources,
we want to keep things transparent and controllable. It could be
tricky for users to act on completely opaque profiles imported from
websites.

I'd see that as a good argument against invisibly gathering interests from browsing habits. I agree that opaque profiles are bad - not just for this reason, but also in general - but being able to say, "hey, this is me over here" would be a handy thing to do. You're already attaching interests to me; I think it's fair for me to be able to say where my main presence is, to seed that process.
 
> I tell Firefox where my profile is, and it does the legwork to determine my interests
Would you expect Firefox to somehow map/convert the referenced profile
into a "Firefox profile" or would it be a local copy of your profile
from the external source? Or perhaps Firefox provides a link to that
original profile reference?

The very last thing I need in the world is another profile. Again, I'd vastly prefer to be able to point it at a page that I already own, or that I already consider to represent me. Perhaps Firefox could allow you to create a profile if you don't have one - but I'm pretty married to werd.io at this point, and I consider it to be the center of who I am on the web.

So, yeah, it would be interesting if you could subscribe to my profile, whether it's on a Mozilla site or elsewhere, and keep your list of interests concurrent with what I list there (perhaps in addition to working them out from other sources).

Just my 2 cents, but that's how I'd prefer to use it. Thinking from the perspective of my mom, an easily-maintainable profile that you can create from Firefox would probably also be handy.

Alan Chapell

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Aug 6, 2013, 3:28:08 PM8/6/13
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Hi Justin, How does UP comply with Mozilla's long term position on Do Not Track?

Thanks.

Ed Lee

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Aug 6, 2013, 3:55:18 PM8/6/13
to Mozilla Labs Group, Alan Chapell
On Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 12:28 PM, Alan Chapell <cha...@gmail.com> wrote:
> How does UP comply with Mozilla's long term position on Do Not Track?
Just speaking as the Labs engineer who wrote the blog posts for last
year's experiments with aspects of keeping users in control of their
data even after sharing:
https://blog.mozilla.org/labs/2012/10/about-trackers-protecting-shared-firefox-data/
https://blog.mozilla.org/labs/2012/10/ideas-on-terms-for-shared-firefox-data/

One idea from those posts was roughly that Mozilla could create
contracts similar to the Terms of Service that users agree to use
websites. But here we switch things around, and Mozilla, as a
non-profit, can set the terms that are beneficial to users such as
non-tracking-ness of data. Another interest aspect discussed in those
posts is that Mozilla can use Firefox to enforce those contracts
through techniques such as blocking access for those who don't care
for the user as previously agreed.

From a user stand point, it's beneficial to ensure the data is not
tracked to make sure the user is always in control. So if the user
turns off sharing interests, nothing should be personalized with the
previously shared interests. Or if one's interests changes, the
personalization can update right away. There shouldn't be a need to
track for an immediate personalization because if the user actually
wants to share, the data will be available. This also could allow for
some interesting features, e.g., an add-on that temporarily changes
the interests shared to appear as someone with a different set of
interests to see what the web is like personalized in a different way.

And just as a reminder as before from those blog posts, these so far
have been experimental ideas from the Labs group to see how Mozilla
can improve users' privacy by reducing tracking while still providing
a personalized experience. I believe broadly, it's in everyone's
benefit to provide personalized content when users want it for
increased user engagement instead how some existing patterns make
users feel uncomfortable with the process and end result (where users
end up ignoring spammy content that just wastes their time and others'
money).

Ed Lee

Alan Chapell

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Aug 6, 2013, 5:14:59 PM8/6/13
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Thanks Ed. This is really interesting stuff, but doesn't seem to address my question specific to DNT.

Let me ask it a different way. Does UP enable websites to have access to personalization information derived from User's browsing history when DNT is also enabled? Do Users need to consent to UP prior to having this info shared?

Thanks.

Alan

Justin Scott

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Aug 6, 2013, 5:29:41 PM8/6/13
to mozill...@googlegroups.com, Alan Chapell
Hi Alan,

As currently planned, UP and DNT are separate within Firefox. UP (history-derived) interests won't be shared unless the user chooses to share them, which is why it's possible a user may have DNT enabled, but also choose to share interests with a specific website that they'd like to be personalized. In fact, the combination of having DNT on and sharing UP interests sends a clear message to the website: "I'd like personalized content on x, y, and z interests, but don't store them or track me."

Does that make sense?

Justin


Alan Chapell wrote:
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Alan Chapell

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Aug 7, 2013, 2:05:06 PM8/7/13
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Ahhhh, ok. I may be misunderstanding how Firefox is communicating UP's functionality to Users. Is it an opt-in model? Is there a link to the UP beta?

Thanks.

Justin Scott

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Aug 8, 2013, 7:40:10 PM8/8/13
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Hi Alan,

It's a complex topic so we're still working out the best way to communicate it to users in a simple way. We have some work to do there, but the key thing is that nothing is shared with anyone (including Mozilla) unless users choose to share it.

We don't have an UP beta yet, but are hoping to land in Nightly soon for testing purposes.

Justin Scott

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Aug 8, 2013, 7:41:17 PM8/8/13
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For anyone interested in the proposal, I encourage you to watch our public brownbag presentation from this morning on it: https://air.mozilla.org/user-personalization-up-brownbag/

Justin


On Thursday, July 25, 2013 8:08:18 AM UTC-7, Justin Scott wrote:

SundaraRaman R

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Sep 18, 2013, 5:31:47 AM9/18/13
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As the knee-jerk comments on the original post indicate, this is a touchy subject that needs to be communicated very carefully in today's paranoid environment. I'd suggest you use the quote from EFF very prominently when you introduce the feature, that would assuage most privacy geeks before they get all riled up. :)

As for the feature itself, I think this is understood but not stated openly stated anywhere so: this is not directly going to affect the (currently existing) tracking mechanisms used by sites, but instead offers an alternative that they can use when they want to know a user's interests but wish to respect their privacy - is that correct? The current options are either (a) get no info from users and provide generic (presumably unattractive) ads and services, or (b) track the user and get TMI (too much information) from them even though you only want a subset of it. This UP feature seeks to offer a middle ground as I understand it, which can hopefully increase the number of sites that respect the DNT setting because they can now get the info they need in another (more privacy-respectful) manner. Is my understanding correct?

SundaraRaman R

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Oct 24, 2013, 1:37:53 PM10/24/13
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privatebob, I'm truly sorry if I ended up offending you unintentionally, my post was not directed at you at all. I specifically said "the knee-jerk comments on the original post" because the comments here (including yours) have all been well-thought out responses, whereas the comments on the original blog posts that Justin linked to were mostly "herp derp I hate you Mozilla" - those were the ones I was referring to as "knee-jerk" responses. My intention was only to suggest something to Mozilla on the PR front, not to wedge in stealth insults against anybody, I'm sorry that my poor wording lead to this confusion.


On Thursday, October 24, 2013 9:51:27 PM UTC+5:30, privatebob wrote:
Knee-jerk, good sir, means without thought. In case you knew this definition, I would like to compare your comment with mine in both quantity and quality to show you that your comment has less thought than mine. I haven't replied until now because your comment is so vague it is hard to tell whether it is directed at me. Accordingly, my comment now will focus on the presumption that it is.

First, my comment is quantitatively longer, so obviously there was more thought put into it, unless you count what you have to say between your lines, which does not amount to much anyway. Second, my comment is more thoughtful in quality, for if Mozilla does not "...affect the (currently existing) tracking mechanism used by sites)..." then there would be no point in calling Mozilla's proposition here a privacy enhancement (as they have stated) because we would just be sending advertisers even more personal identifiable information, not less. So, the User Personalization Proposal would either have to totally replace the "currently existing tracking mechanism" or leave the option for users to disable it if they choose to use the new User Personalization Proposal.

If you called my comment knee-jerk because I happened to mention porn (again, you are too vague to tell), let me remind you, that Private Browsing was first put in to keep people from viewing their browsing history (one of the reasons being to not let others know they watch porn), so obviously this has to do in at least some way with porn because this User Personalization Proposal is like Private Browsing for the server side of things; whereas, the actual Private Browsing users engage in now is directed at the client. Don't get me wrong, what Mozilla is proposing sounds like a huge undertaking, but they've taken on huge projects before to make the web a more open and private place, so this is another one of those big projects.

Good luck Mozilla, sincerely.

iacc...@gmail.com

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Oct 25, 2013, 4:32:12 AM10/25/13
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Hi everyone,
sorry if I come in with something not exactly related, but: is there a way to have the (sort of) demo video of UP we saw at the Mozilla Summit? I'd like to include it in a presentation I'm giving this Saturday.

thanks,
Iacopo
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