Mozilla wants to let people browse the Internet without ever being tracked and monitored. Teaming up with the Tor project, developer of online anonymity software recommended even by Edward Snowden, Mozilla’s “Polaris” project will attempt to defeat all online tracking, governmental or private.
“Polaris is a privacy initiative built to pull together our own privacy efforts along with other privacy leaders in the industry” wrote Mozilla’s public policy head Denelle Dixon-Thayer in a blog post about the new project. “Polaris is designed to allow us to collaborate more effectively, more explicitly and more directly to bring more privacy features into our products. We want to accelerate pragmatic and user-focused advances in privacy technology for the Web, giving users more control, awareness and protection in their Web experiences. We want to advance the state of the art in privacy features, with a specific focus on bringing them to more mainstream audiences.”
Trying to hide online activity is a growing interest for big tech companies. Apple and Google have made their new phones in a way that can’t be easily hacked by any surveillance software and that keep their data on the phone, not accessible from a remote source. This in turn has caused annoyance to law enforcement officials like FBI director James Comey, who recently said encryption shouldn’t stop tech companies from turning over customer data on request.
Still, that won’t stop groups like Mozilla and Tor from doing what they can to get around surveillance software. Tor already does a pretty good job of that, and Polaris would basically integrate that technology into Firefox. Tor has been looking to expand its reach and improve its software after illegal online drug markets using it were shut down by a group of governments. Mozilla has been putting out its own tools for people to use to improve their encryption but using Tor would arguably put it at a whole new level. On a purely practical note, it would also help expand its market share as a browser if it could claim to be all but impervious to tracking by the NSA or anyone else.
“We recognize that privacy is not just a functionality on your computer or a setting you can turn on or off, and we’re excited to see what we can do to advance privacy online with Polaris” Dixon-Thayer wrote.