In Mozilla We Trust

Opting out of the Firefox / Google / Yahoo partnership

Whether you are a privacy freak or just wish to opt out of the Firefox/Google/Yahoo partnership for some other reason, there is a really simple little hack to get the job done.

In my case i was pretty ticked off when Mozilla decided to force the Australis interface upon everyone without offering an option to disable it. I understand many people like the new interface, but i didn’t and so yet another plugin or two was required to restore the functionality that some marketing genius at Mozilla decided i didn’t need. As one disgruntled user put it, “If i wanted a browser that looked like Chrome, i would have installed Chrome“.

After quickly realizing that my complaints, along with those of many thousands of other disgruntled users, were falling upon deaf ears, i decided to take another approach and hit Mozilla where it counts; their wallet!

Free software isn’t always free

Many of us probably tend to associate the open-source software community with individuals or small organizations that give away software freely and expect nothing in return, however nothing could be further from the truth regarding Mozilla, a multimillion dollar corporation. The hundreds of millions of dollars that Mozilla rakes in every year is largely due to its partnership with search engines such as Google and, more recently, Yahoo. These multi-billion dollar anti-privacy mega-corporations harvest your data and use it to track your behavior. The data they collect then gets sold to advertisers and who knows who else. It seems to me that these kinds of partnerships are clearly at odds with Mozilla’s statement, “Committed to you, your privacy and an open Web“.

So how does Mozilla get paid by mega-giant companies like Yahoo and Google? Simple: Every time you use Firefox to search the their databases, parameters like these get added to your search query:

client=firefox-a
name="appid" value="ffd"
name="hspart" value="mozilla"

These parameters tell the search engine company that you are using a Firefox/Mozilla product and that’s all it takes to rake in millions for the Mozilla foundation.

Opting out

If you do not wish to participate in the Mozilla/Google/Yahoo affiliate scheme, or you just like being a little more anonymous, here’s what you can do to opt out of it. Although this tutorial is for Windows users, it should work on Linux and Mac as well except that the file paths will be different.

Creating new search plugins

In your Firefox program directory (\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox if you’re running 64 bit Windows, or \Program Files\Mozilla Firefox if you’re not), open the \browser\searchplugins folder and copy both the google.xml and yahoo.xml files to your Firefox profile directory (AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\[your_profile_name]\searchplugins). If you don’t have a \searchplugins folder, create it.

Configuring Google

Open the google.xml file you copied to your \searchplugins folder in your favorite text editor and find this line (it may be slightly different than shown):

<Url type="application/x-suggestions+json" method="GET" template="https://www.google.com/complete/search?client=firefox&amp;q={searchTerms}"/>

If you never use Google’s search suggestions, you can delete the entire line, otherwise just remove the client=firefox&amp; part so it looks like this:

<Url type="application/x-suggestions+json" method="GET" template="https://www.google.com/complete/search?q={searchTerms}"/>

Next, delete every line beginning with <MozParam if there are any.

Delete this line if it’s present: <Param name="channel" value="fflb"/>

Configuring Yahoo

Open the Yahoo.xml file you copied to your \searchplugins folder and delete the entire block of code beginning with <Url type="application/x-suggestions+json" method="GET" up to and including the first </Url>. It appears that search suggestions work fine without it.

Delete the line: <Param name="hspart" value="mozilla"/>

In you user.js file, add the following preferences:

user_pref("browser.search.param.yahoo-fr", ""); // removes the query string
user_pref("browser.search.param.yahoo-fr-ja", ""); // removes the query string

Finishing up

Finally, save the files and restart Firefox for the changes to take effect.

You can do this with all of the other search xml files in the Firefox program directory as well, although you will have to figure out what to remove since the parameter names may not be the same. Basically you want to remove any firefox or mozilla parameters and lines beginning with <MozParam.

Another way to fight back is simply to use privacy conscious search engines, like DuckDuckGo or Startpage.

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