Mozilla has always been a staunch proponent of privacy. Its position hasn’t won the non-profit a lot of corporate friends, and its next move won’t win it many friends in government either.
A bunch of privacy loving Web companies, including Mozilla, have just launched StopWatching.Us. The site is simply a petition that asks Congress to detail “the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.” Mozilla says that these programs must become more transparent as the Web becomes more sophisticated:
However, exposures resulting from government-sponsored online surveillance are entirely separate from whether we choose to share information and what those sites say they will or will not do with our data. That’s because, at least in the US, these companies are required to respect a court order to share our information with the government, whether they like it or not. Mozilla hasn’t received any such order to date, but it could happen to us as we build new server-based services in the future.
There are a number of problems with this kind of electronic surveillance. First, the Internet is making it much easier to use these powers. There’s a lot more data to be had. The legal authority to conduct electronic surveillance has grown over the past few years, because the laws are written broadly. And, as users, we don’t have good ways of knowing whether the current system is being abused, because it’s all happening behind closed doors.
Mozilla is hardly alone in its efforts to inject a little transparency into the NSA. Google and Facebook have both come forward demanding the government be more transparent with its data requests. It’s a more personal and financial battle for them, however, as users may grow to distrust them and the other companies that were listed as alleged co-conspirators in the NSA’s Internet surveillance dragnet.
As you read above, Mozilla is obviously fearing the same thing if the NSA continues on in secrecy. We don’t know when another document will be leaked, and there may even be more companies added to PRISM in the future. For some Internet users, it will becoming increasingly hard to trust any company with their data. That’s something every Web-based company wants to avoid so expect more petitions like this one to pop up in the future.