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Firefox 60 will show 'sponsored stories' but you can disable them, says Mozilla

Firefox users will soon start to see sponsored stories in new tabs, but Mozilla says it will respect users' privacy.

Video: How Mozilla plans to win back Firefox users.

Mozilla is following through with previously announced plans to add sponsored content to new tabs in Firefox 60.

The browser maker revealed in January that Firefox beta users would start to see "an occasional sponsored story" in the Pocket recommendations section of new tabs.

The feature was shown to a "small portion of US users" initially but with Firefox 60, scheduled for general release on May 9, it will go "fully live" for US users.

The sponsored stories expand Firefox's integration with Pocket, which Mozilla acquired in 2017 and has, as of Firefox Quantum, been used to power content recommendations in new tabs based on popular content saved to Pocket.

That feature has only rolled out to users in the US, Canada and Germany. Pocket also sends a list of related websites to trending stories that if clicked are taken as a signal of interest.

See: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)

Although sponsored content introduces a kind of advertising to Firefox, Mozilla emphasizes that its approach enables personalization without sacrificing privacy.

It also wants to avoid becoming a platform like Facebook that encourages clickbait, while also giving users the ability to opt out of sponsored content.

Mozilla has seized on Facebook's Cambridge Analytica privacy fiasco to promote the idea that it can show a path to fixing the "broken" online advertising model. Its other related moves include pulling Facebook ads and releasing the Facebook Container extension.

"We've come to accept a premise around advertising today that users need to trade their privacy and data in exchange for personalized, high-quality experiences. Our experiments over the past few months have proved that this isn't true," wrote Pocket's founder, Nate Weiner.

Pocket's FAQ on its integration with Firefox notes that personalized recommendations happen locally on the browser and that neither Mozilla nor Pocket receives a copy of users' browser history.

It's also made disabling sponsored content a simple process of unchecking a 'Show sponsored content' setting, though this suggests that Firefox will be released with the sponsored content option already checked.

The option is available in the New Tab Preferences gear icon. Users who don't see the option haven't been included in the sponsored stories rollout.

Pocket notes that sponsored content will always be clearly marked as a sponsored story. Sponsors also only receive a tally of impressions and clicks their content receives.

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Image: Mozilla

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