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Mozilla stops displaying full-screen VPN ads within Firefox after backlash

Users of Firefox started reporting on Reddit yesterday that when browsing websites, a full-screen ad for Mozilla's VPN service which launched two years ago would randomly pop up. This advert would effectively disable clicking anywhere else in the window or page until it was dismissed or interacted with.

This led to users of Firefox going straight to Bugzilla to raise reports, however, these were closed with tags that confirmed the behaviour was working as intended, and deliberately implemented by Mozilla into the browser. However, Mozilla has since confirmed that the adverts have been disabled from the browser and this can be found when digging through the about:config menu under the flag browser.vpn_promo.enabled.

Screenshot of an ad of Mozilla VPN
Source: Reddit

Other users, not just on Reddit, but also on Mozilla's support forum highlighted that the pop-ups could be prevented from appearing by using some ad-blocking extensions but not all prevented it because these look for ads within pages rather than being presented by the software itself.

Mozilla initially replied to consumer complaints with the below statement:

"Thank you for reaching out with your concern. Firefox is committed to creating an online experience that puts people first, as such we quickly stopped running the ad experience, and are reviewing internally."

Following the backtracking of this, Mozilla has communicated further stating the following about its decision to revert the change, but not denying that it may be implemented again in a different format in the future.

"We’re continuously working to understand the best ways to communicate with people who use Firefox. Ultimately, we accomplished the exact opposite of what we intended in this experiment and quickly rolled the experience back. We apologize for any confusion or concern."

Given that Mozilla has continually put itself forward as a 'user-focused' company, touting that it cares about privacy and security, it seems strange that it would start implementing adverts like this within the browser, but the product is a significant income stream for the not-for-profit company.

Source: Bleeping Computer

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