The add-on’s vague description definitely didn’t help.
A curious add-on called “Looking Glass” started popping up on Firefox for a number of users this past week — even if they didn’t give the browser permission to install it. Due to its nebulous nature and creepy description that only said “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT FROM YOURS,” people took to social networks to ask other users and air their concerns.
Turns out Looking Glass isn’t spamware, malware or any of the sort: it’s a promotional campaign for Mr. Robot, a TV series about the life of a cybersecurity-engineer-slash-hacker.
A screenshot of Looking Glass version 1.0.3 captured by TechCrunchshows that the extension’s profile barely had anything in it. Version 1.0.4, which one of Engadget’s editors found in his browser, was more forthcoming and admitted that it’s a collaboration between Mr. Robot and Mozilla.
Based on the details unearthed by affected users, the add-on was developed by Mozilla’s Shield Studies program, a platform available on all Firefox channels that gives you a way to test features before they’re released.
Some Shield studies ask for your permission to opt in, others automatically make their way to your browser and require you to actively opt out. Problem is, some weren’t even aware that they’re part of the Shield program, so they had no idea where the extension could’ve come from.
Mozilla is now facing backlash for installing the add-on without people’s consent, especially since it always stresses how important users’ privacy is to the organization. In fact, in the page explaining what Looking Glass is, Mozilla wrote:
“The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security. 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.”
Despite the troubling way the extension was installed, Mozilla said it doesn’t do anything to your system until you opt into the Alternate Reality Game, the immersive experience the organization designed to take fans into the Mr. Robot universe. Those who couldn’t care less about the show can kill the extension by typing about:addons in their address bar and removing Looking Glass.
Update: A Mozilla rep reached out and told Engadget:
“Our goal with the custom experience we created with Mr. Robot was to engage our users in a fun and unique way. Real engagement also means listening to feedback. And so while the web extension/add-on that was sent out to Firefox users never collected any data, and had to be explicitly enabled by users playing the game before it would affect any web content, we heard from some of our users that the experience we created caused confusion.
As a result we will be moving the Looking Glass Add-on to our Add-On store within the next 24 hours so Mr. Robot fans can continue to solve the puzzle and the source can be viewed in a public repository.”
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.
Mozilla Slipped the World a Mickey: ‘Mr. Robot’-Promo Plugin Auto-Installed into Firefox and Users Are Pissed
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.
“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. Robotpromotes 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 notcollect 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.”
Are you a fan of Mr Robot? Are you trying to solve one of the many puzzles that the Mr Robot team has built? You’re on the right track. Firefox and Mr Robot have collaborated on a shared experience to further your immersion into the Mr Robot universe, also known as an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). The effects you’re seeing are a part of this shared experience.
No changes will be made to Firefox unless you have opted in to this Alternate Reality Game.
How do I turn it off?
If you no longer wish to participate in this shared world experience, enter about:addons into your address bar and remove Looking Glass.
The Mozilla – Mr. Robot Connection
The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security. 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.
Mozilla exists to build the Internet as a public resource accessible to all because we believe open and free is better than closed and controlled. We build products like Firefox to give people more control over their lives online.
New Bitcoin ATM in Brooklyn at the Looking Glass Bar As Seen in Mr. Robot
The Looking Glass bar in Brooklyn that was a secret meetup spot for the activist hackers of Mr. Robot in S2E08 “Through the Looking Glass” now has its very own Bitcoin ATM. The ATM is located right next to a traditional ATM by the front entrance.
Customers can buy Bitcoin at 9% and sell at market rate (no fee).
Looking Glass is located at 1087 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11221. It is easily accessible from the JMZ trains (Myrtle stop) and is open from 6pm-4am daily.
Our Bitcoin ATMs are operated by Hermes, Ltd. Hermes, Ltd. is compliant with the rules and regulations of the New York Department of Financial Services.
If you have an issue with a transaction please visit our office at 157 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012. You can also call 917-515-5355 or email email@example.com
Complaints can also be issued to the New York Department of Financial Services at dfs.ny.gov, calling (800) 342-3736, or mailing Department of Financial Services, Consumer Assistance Unit, One Commerce Plaza, Albany, NY 12257