Mozilla investigates 'Mr. Robot'-Firefox extension faux pas

After foisting a cryptic browser extension on US users, the nonprofit promises changes to stop anything like that from happening again.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
Stephen Shankland worked at CNET from 1998 to 2024 and wrote about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Mozilla is formally investigating its installation of a cryptic extension for its Firefox web browser that was supposed to tie in with the "Mr. Robot" TV series but caused worry and anger instead.

The extension, called Looking Glass, was developed in partnership with the "Mr. Robot" TV show about hackers, privacy and the power of technology giants. An augmented reality game that combines real-world and online clues lets fans of the show solve puzzles, and the Looking Glass extension for Firefox last week was the newest step for players.

Mozilla's brand incorporates web-address styling.

Mozilla's brand incorporates web-address styling.


But plenty of people who had no idea what was going on also got it, seeing a mysterious new extension whose description said only "MY REALITY IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS." Mozilla sent it to English-speaking Firefox users in the US using a browser testing tool designed to let Firefox developers investigate things like performance and bugs. Mozilla faced a backlash both for installing a suspicious-looking extension without permission and for using the testing tool to do so -- both abuses of trust to Firefox users who complained on discussion forum Reddit.

The faux pas shows how much control software and hardware makers have over the technology we use -- reminiscent of Apple sending iPhone users unasked-for U2 music and Amazon remotely removing a copy of George Orwell's "1984" from Kindle e-book readers. Like them, Mozilla now is trying to make up to unhappy users of its product.

"The rollout did not meet the standards to which we hold ourselves, causing concern that was surfaced through our Firefox community ... We're sorry for the confusion and for letting down members of our community," Mozilla said in a blog post Monday. The nonprofit has begun a formal internal review of technical, legal and communications processes, and it'll share results in January about how it'll change its processes.

The add-on itself didn't collect any personal information -- indeed, it didn't do anything at all unless people activated it. When activated, it temporarily inverted some website text and revealed a clue for the "Mr. Robot" game players.