Firefox and Thunderbird phone home daily

Firefox and Thunderbird phone home daily

Summary: Several of you have emailed me to let me know of a Firefox and Thunderbird feature that you might not be aware of - both applications phone home on a daily basis.

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Several of you have emailed me to let me know of a Firefox and Thunderbird feature that you might not be aware of  - both applications phone home on a daily basis.

Here's the info as posted on Reddit:

I found this out a few days after I decided to start using Thunderbird and created strict firewall rules as a precaution.

I noticed that Thunderbird would, for no reason at all, sometimes try to contact a server over SSL. I looked up the ip address 63.245.213.32 and found it belonged to Mozilla.

On researching the problem further I found that the cause of the connection is a feature that cannot be disabled from any menu, only the about:config configuration page.

Look up extensions.blocklist.enabled for more information. It's present in Firefox also and is enabled even if all the options are disabled through the menus.

What this tells Mozilla each day:

- IP address - What time you were using the product - What exact version number you were using - If you are using any of the plugins or addons sent in the disabled list - Total number of active users of their software

More info on this feature over on the Mozilla support site (this link also shows you how to disable this phone home feature). Seems that this is related to checking the extensions blocklist for malicious add-ons (won't a malicious add-on just disable the check feature???).

Personally, I'm not too fussed about this feature, but I can understand why some folks are getting hot under the collar.

Thoughts?

Topics: Browser, Mobility, Software

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Talkback

51 comments
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  • Unacceptable

    I should be able to opt out upon installation, not have to read about it on some random blog.

    Thanks for the info!














    :)
    none none
  • Thanks for the info

    Makes me want to compile FF from source. I assume this primarily affects the pre-compiled binaries distributed by Mozilla, rather than those compiled by third parties, but now I think I want to check.
    John L. Ries
    • Thanks from me too

      With you info/link I get to decide for my self what auto connections are made. THANKS AGAIN.
      Sagax-
  • Firefox = Spyware!

    So the Mozzila Org. has taken it upon themselves to spy on a Firefox user without any prior disclosure, notification, explanation, or consent of the user?
    cnfrisch
    • firefox != spyware

      No, they just connect to mozilla.com to update phishing and malware lists. BFD.
      wrat@...
  • This is something Microsoft has been doing for sometime now.

    It doesn't bother Windows users that Microsoft keeps tab on
    them, but it bothers them when other companies do it .
    Showing plenty of BIAS here.
    Intellihence
    • Really? What does Windows

      send to MS everyday?

      IP address?
      What time you were using the product?
      What exact version number you were using?
      If you are using any of the plugins or addons sent in the disabled list?
      Total number of active users of their software?
      AllKnowingAllSeeing
      • Yup. All of the above.

        "Really? What does Windows send to MS everyday?"

        Automatic update checks daily, if I remember correctly. This feature can be disabled in both Firefox and Windows if you want.

        "IP address?"

        Yes. This is the normal way TCP/IP works.

        "What time you were using the product?"

        No more than Firefox does. It can of course be assumed that when it checks for updates, it is running.

        "What exact version number you were using?"

        It does have to check for updates, so yes, I assume that is sent.

        "If you are using any of the plugins or addons sent in the disabled list?"

        Well, not that exactly, but I'm sure it checks for updates for any Microsoft products.

        "Total number of active users of their software? "

        That can probably be inferred from the number of computers that try to connect and update themselves.
        CobraA1
        • Interesting

          Next it'll want to know what I had for breakfast :)
          AllKnowingAllSeeing
          • it also used to send back what music/films you play

            not sure if it still does
            deaf_e_kate
        • Automatic Updates is opt-in only.

          Automatic Updates doesn't check for updates unless you opt in. Microsoft asks you when you install Vista/XP whether you want to enable automatic updates or not. It doesn't even have a default answer, you have to explicitly choose.

          Other features with similar privacy implications, such as IE7's phishing filter and the "customer experience improvement program", are also opt-in only. The only "phone-home" thing I can think of in Windows that is on by default is time synchronization.

          Looking at the Firefox support article, they really should turn version checking, anti-phishing and extension block list updating, into opt-in as well.
          PB_z
          • What about WGA?

            Everytime I change a driver or add a new program,it's phoning home. Slows the hell outta my surf time too!

            Then Works? Oh man I won't even go there!
            JCitizen
          • However, if you don't opt-in..

            you continually get nag screens, telling you that you've
            turned Automatic Updates off.
            msalzberg
          • Not always opt-in

            >>Automatic Updates doesn't check for updates unless you opt in. Microsoft asks you when you install Vista/XP whether you want to enable automatic updates or not. It doesn't even have a default answer, you have to explicitly choose.>>

            I guess you forgot about the automatic updates that occurred even when automatic updates was clearly disabled. In addition, since when was WGA a critical update? In the future, it might not be a good idea to use Microsoft as an example of good net citizenship.
            mystic100
      • Besides the previously mentioned,

        Windows also sends info about your hardware such as processor, bios, and hard drive. How do you think they can flag you when making major system changes or if you try to install to more than one machine? WGA phones home every so often with the system info and it compares it to the system info from the last report. If critical things don't match you get told you must reactivate.<br><br>This was my deal breaker after 3 calls to MS, I decided I rather not waste my time dealing with calling them when I make major changes to <b>my</b> box, be treated as a criminal and didn't like the invasion of my privacy especially since they weren't disclosing what they were doing and they <b>still</b> refuse to disclose all thats being transmitted back to them.<br><br> As for Mozilla, the invasion of privacy aspect is bothering, I may have to alter my browser and e-mail app choices or at least alter their config files since no where did they inform me they were going to be doing this but on the same hand are not denying me the ability to stop the apps from sending them the data.<br><br>Shame on Mozilla for not being up front about this. Nothings free but let me judge if the price is one I care to pay......
        devlin_X
  • NO BIAS. Most users switched to Firefox...

    to get away from the Microsoft conundrum. Noe Mozilla is pulling the same crap. I guarantee you that if they are aggravated about Firefox, they are too with Mozilla.

    What an ignorant and biased post.
    bjbrock
    • Problem is

      other companies like Apple and what not are doing the same thing themselves, and now companies like Mozilla are jumping on the trend?

      It's an alarming trend, to be sure.
      AllKnowingAllSeeing
  • Firefox 3 on EXT3 partitions....

    ...tends to have SQL problems which cause erratic high CPU usage and extreme hard disk activity. A not yet quite fixed bug.

    For the time being, it's therefore still better to disable "Anti-phishing list updating" and "Anti-malware list updating", as described in the Mozilla link in your article:
    http://support.mozilla.com/fr/kb/Firefox+makes+unrequested+connections

    I suppose I don't have to tell you, Adrian, but this is for the benefit of other Talkback readers. :-)
    pjotr123
    • Hum

      I use ext3 partitions. Thanks!





      :)
      none none
      • You're welcome! This may interest you as well....

        I have published a small website with Ubuntu tips for beginners with Linux:
        http://ubuntutip.googlepages.com/

        Greeting, Pjotr.
        pjotr123