|Mozilla Not An Internet Villain But Still Criticized|
|Written by Sue Gee|
|Friday, 12 July 2019|
When ISPA, a organization that considers itself the voice of the UK Internet Industry, nominated Mozilla for its 2019 Internet Villain Award, it unleashed a barrage of complaints. This led it to withdraw not just the nomination but also the entire category.
As in previous years there were three nominees in the Internet Villain Category, just as there were in the Internet Hero one. They were:
While the category is supposed to be controversial, the reaction to Mozilla's inclusion took IPSA by surprise. Announcing its decision to set aside the nomination, the organization stated:
In the 21 years the event has been running it is probably fair to say that no other nomination has generated such strong opinion. We have previously given the award to the Home Secretary for pushing surveillance legislation, leaders of regimes limiting freedom of speech and ambulance-chasing copyright lawyers. The villain category is intended to draw attention to an important issue in a light-hearted manner, but this year has clearly sent the wrong message, one that doesn’t reflect ISPA’s genuine desire to engage in a constructive dialogue.
Some, including Mozilla itself, were surprised as well as shocked to discover than rather than being in line for a Hero award, as might be expected of an organization that sees its mission is being to keep the web open and accessible for everyone. Instead Mozilla was facing infamy for its proposed implementation of DoH - DNS-over-HTTPs. This is designed to improve privacy for web users by encrypting online queries so that an intermediary on the network cannot intercept them and determine which sites requesters intend to visit.
Encrypting DNS requests, will makes it impossible, or at least very difficult, for entities such as ISPs or governments to monitor which websites people are visiting, and will therefore protect lawbreakers. And because the DNS requests are sent inside encrypted HTTPS requests they’re also indistinguishable from other web traffic, so they can’t be blocked without blocking all web traffic.
To privacy enthusiasts, this is good because neither ISPs nor governments have any business knowing which domains users happen to frequent while ISPs, by contrast face the problem of how to fulfill their legal obligation in the UK to store a year’s worth of each subscriber’s internet visits in case the government wants to study them later for evidence of criminal activity.
Mozilla attempted to defend itself saying:
Despite claims to the contrary, a more private DNS would not prevent the use of content filtering or parental controls in the UK. DNS-over-HTTPS would offer real security benefits to UK citizens.
Even though the awards event went ahead without the Internet Villain category, ISPA still wants to oppose Mozilla's implementation of DoH and spelled out the reasons for doing so:
Any implementation of DoH (or equally any other flavour of encrypted DNS) should be capable of achieving the expected privacy and security benefits, while at the same time being mindful of the complex internet eco system, as well as the different user relationship and trust models that are in play.
There are numerous other areas that we could go into, e.g. how DoH affects enterprise networks, or content caching, and the points raised in this post are only an initial outline.
While Mozilla pointed out that it isn't planning to enable DoH by default in the UK as it is expected to become part of Firefox it may be difficult to avoid.
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|Last Updated ( Friday, 12 July 2019 )|