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Mozilla's Firefox offers VPN service to boost privacy for $10 a month

Financial independence from Google isn't easy for a web browser.

Mozilla is offering a randomly selected group of Firefox users in the United States an offer for VPN service for better privacy.
Mozilla is offering a randomly selected group of Firefox users in the US a VPN service for better privacy.

Mozilla is trying to find out if you're willing to pay $10 a month to get better privacy -- and to give the Firefox maker a little financial independence from Google.

Mozilla makes money through search-ad deals, notably with Google, in which it's paid for sending Firefox users' search queries to Google. Google shows ads next to the search results, and browser makers including Mozilla often get a cut of the proceeds.

Now, though, Mozilla is experimenting with a VPN (virtual private network) service to get a little financial wiggle room from people willing to spend some money to have their internet traffic encrypted better to thwart internet service providers and others from snooping on their online activity. Mozilla will test the offering with a portion of Firefox users in the US starting Wednesday.

"With this VPN experiment ... we're starting the process of exploring new, additional sources of revenue that align with our mission," said Chris More, product leader for growth and services at Firefox, in a blog post Monday.

Privacy has often been a tough sell for ordinary internet users, but Mozilla is trying this new approach during a time when privacy is a hot issue. Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed just how much personal information we share while Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is affecting companies well outside Europe. And let's not forget about the data breaches and the eavesdropping.

Mozilla's VPN service relies on a partnership with Switzerland-based ProtonVPN, which gets some of the revenue. Those who sign up can use the VPN software on Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS and Android.

The service doesn't go as far as a private-tab option in rival browser Brave, which employs "onion routing" technology from the Tor Project to keep websites from tracking you. But Tor tech can be inconvenient, delivering websites in foreign languages and making you jump through extra hoops to perform Google searches.

Cambridge Analytica: Everything you need to know about Facebook's data mining scandal.

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