Mozilla is launching a new privacy-first data sharing platform called Rally that puts users in control of their online data instead of companies.
At the same time though, the new platform also allows users of the company's browser to contribute their browsing data to crowdsourced projects with the aim of building both a better internet and a better society.
For too long now, companies have taken user data without their consent but what if the users themselves could select who gets access to their data and put it to work for the public good? While Mozilla has continued to add privacy features to its browser that give users greater control over their data by blocking trackers, being “data-empowered” also requires that users be able to choose who has access to their data.
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Mozilla Rally project lead Rebecca Weiss explained why the company decided to launch its new data sharing platform in a press release, saying:
“Cutting people out of decisions about their data is an inequity that harms individuals, society and the internet. We believe that you should determine who benefits from your data. We are data optimists and want to change the way the data economy works for both people and day-to-day business. We are excited to see how Rally can help understand some of the biggest problems of the internet and make it better.”
As a first step, Mozilla is launching the new Rally research initiative and this crowdsourced scientific effort was developed in collaboration with Princeton University professor Jonathan Mayer's research group.
As a result, computer scientists, social scientists and other researchers will be able to launch new studies about the web and invite users to participate. One of the core tenets of the initiative is enabling unprecedented studies that hold major online services accountable according to Mozilla.
Mozilla is kickstarting its Mozilla Rally research initiative with two research collaborator studies. The first study, titled “Political and COVID-19 News”, comes from the Princeton team and will examine how people engage with news and misinformation about politics and Covid-19 across online services. The second study, which is titled “Beyond the Paywall” and will launch soon, aims to better understand news consumption.
Finally, Mozilla is launching a new toolkit called WebScience that enables researchers to build standardized browser-based studies on Rally. The toolkit also encourages data minimization as this is central to how Rally will respect those who choose to participate in its studies.
Mozilla Rally is currently available for Firefox desktop users over the age of 19 in the US though the company plans to launch its data sharing platform for other browsers and countries at a later date.
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