Mozilla sneaked a browser plugin that promotes Mr. Robot into Firefox—and managed to piss off a bunch of its privacy-conscious users in the process.
The extension, called Looking Glass, is intended to promote an augmented reality game to “further your immersion into the Mr. Robot universe,” according to Mozilla. It was automatically added to Firefox users’ browsers this week with no explanation except the cryptic message, “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS,” prompting users to worry on Reddit that they’d been hit with spyware.
“I have no idea what it is or where it came from. I freaked out a bit and uninstalled it immediately,” one user wrote on Reddit.
Without an explanation included with the extension, users were left digging around in the code for Looking Glass to find answers. Looking Glass was updated for some users today with a description that explains the connection to Mr. Robot and lets users know that the extension won’t activate without explicit opt-in.
“Mozilla folks, what you did with this addon this was stupid and moronic. Most users are not programmers; most people don’t watch Mr. Robot; and most people are not going to waste a bunch of time tracking down stupid crap like this,” another user wrote on Reddit.
Mozilla justified its decision to include the extension because Mr. Robot promotes user privacy. “The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security,” the company said in an explanation of the mysterious extension. “One of the 10 guiding principles of Mozilla’s mission is that individuals’ security and privacy on the internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional. The more people know about what information they are sharing online, the more they can protect their privacy.”
It is currently unclear what user-privacy considerations Mozilla management made before deciding to auto-install the Mr. Robot plugin into Firefox. A representative told Gizmodo the company is looking into the issue.
Even some of Mozilla’s own employees aren’t happy about the extension. Steve Klabnik, a software developer at Mozilla, said that employees had been told that Firefox would do a promotion with Mr. Robot, but weren’t clued in to the details. “How can we claim to be pro-privacy while surreptitiously installing software on people’s computers?” he tweeted. “More importantly, how did management not see this as a problem?”
If you don’t want some random Mr. Robot-themed game installed in your browser, you can remove it by going to your Firefox menu, clicking Add Ons, going to the extensions tab, and removing Looking Glass. And if you do want a Mr. Robot game in your browser... congrats. It’s already there.
Update, 4:15 p.m.:
“Firefox worked with the Mr. Robot team to create a custom experience that would surprise and delight fans of the show and our users. It’s especially important to call out that this collaboration does not compromise our principles or values regarding privacy. The experience does not collect or share any data,” Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, chief marketing officer of Mozilla, said in a statement to Gizmodo. “The experience was kept under wraps to be introduced at the conclusion of the season of Mr. Robot. We gave Mr. Robot fans a unique mystery to solve to deepen their connection and engagement with the show and is only available in Firefox.”
Update, 12/16 at 1:00 p.m.: Firefox now says it will move the Looking Glass extension to its add-on store.