The Privacy Side of the Test Pilot Program
Article by George Norman
On 14 Aug 2009
The Test Pilot program that the Mozilla foundation announced back in January, has finally been officially launched earlier this week. As a matter of fact, the Test Pilot Firefox add-on that allows you to take part in the program (answer a few questions, help Mozilla make its products better) has already received its first update. But we’re straying from the point of this article. Now that the Test Pilot program is up and running, you will be asked to provide answers to a few questions – and this raises some privacy concerns.

New “Test Pilots” will be asked the following questions:
Which operating system are you using?
Where do you access the Web from? Select all that apply.
What devices do you use to access the Web? Select all that apply.
What web browsers do you use besides Firefox? Select all that apply.
Do you share your computer with other people?
How familiar are you with the following computer and Web-related terms?
(Please choose a number between 1 and 5, where 1 represents "no understanding" and 5 represent "full understanding" of the item.)
What is your age? (Optional)
What is your gender? (Optional)
What is the highest level of education you have obtained? (Optional)


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You might be wary about sharing this sort of info, but according to Mozilla you should not be. On several occasions the matter of privacy came into focus. When the program was announced back in January, Mozilla said the following: “We’ll only collect aggregate anonymized data, publish all results under open-content licenses, and review every test to make sure your privacy is held sacred.”

Then in July, the team behind the Test Pilot program announced that it treats “privacy and security with the utmost importance” and that it is “working with engineers and legal experts to figure out best practices to protect individual users’ privacy during testing” and proposed a set of guidelines, which covered the following bases:
- Test Pilot will not run as part of Firefox; instead the team will run Test Pilot as a standalone opt-in program.
- Unless the user gives explicit permission, the Test Pilot team will not collect any info about that user.
- For privacy reasons, anonymous and sanitized information will not be stored or transmitted.
- Test data will be made “knowable, manageable and safe for individuals.”


Now that the Test Pilot program has been officially launched, Mozilla has come up with the final version of its privacy policy:

1. Participants’ data will be transmitted only when you willingly complete all following actions:
- Sign up for the Test Pilot program by installing the extension.
- Submit your data when the test is finished. You will be able to review all the data before choosing whether or not to submit it.
2. Your test data will only be stored in anonymous form. None of it will be directly associated with any personally identifiable information about you.
3. All test data will be aggregated and made available to the general public. That is, the only information made public will be statistical information about the test pilot community as a whole. No data about any individual user will ever be shared.
4. You may opt out from the Test Pilot program at any time.


If you would like to the get the Test Pilot Firefox add-on, a download location is available here.
Additional details on the Test Pilot program are available on the official webpage here.




Tags: Mozilla, Firefox, Test Pilot, Add-on, Privacy
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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