[New Tab] connections to Mozilla tiles server continue after a user turns off "suggested sites"

NEW
Unassigned

Status

()

3 years ago
10 months ago

People

(Reporter: philipp, Unassigned)

Tracking

40 Branch
Points:
---

Firefox Tracking Flags

(firefox40 affected, firefox41 affected, firefox42 affected)

Details

(Reporter)

Description

3 years ago
str in a new profile:
- go to the new tab page and set "include suggested sites" to off
- (in order to speed up things, delete directoryLinks.json from the profile folder)
- restart firefox
- firefox is still establishing connections to https://tiles.services.mozilla.com/v3/links/fetch/de/beta and  
https://tiles.cdn.mozilla.net/desktop-prerelease/DE/de.<...>.ag.json

expected:
"off" should mean off. especially with a sensitive "feature" like this one (which is serving mozilla more than the user), users who disable it should not get the impression, that an exchange of data is still going on behind their back...
I agree, we shouldn't communicate to the tiles servers if the user opts out. Ed, can we get this on the teams radar to fix asap?
Flags: needinfo?(edilee)
Flags: needinfo?(edilee) → needinfo?(kghim)

Comment 2

3 years ago
If the user opts out and several days later decides to opt back in, how long does it take to re-establish tiles services connection?
Flags: needinfo?(kghim)

Comment 3

3 years ago
Tim, can you provide info to the above question?
Flags: needinfo?(tspurway)
Firefox sends an impression ping whenever a new tab is opened, regardless of what tiles are on the page (directory, organic, suggested, etc.).  The payload, however, only contains details about sponsored and affiliate tiles (ie. frecent site URLs are *not* reported)

Firefox also fetches the tiles distribution once per day.  I believe this happens regardless of the settings for suggested tiles, IIRC.  

Turning these pings/requests off would require changes to Firefox.
Flags: needinfo?(tspurway)
(In reply to Tim Spurway [:tspurway] from comment #4)
> Firefox sends an impression ping whenever a new tab is opened, regardless of
> what tiles are on the page (directory, organic, suggested, etc.).  The
> payload, however, only contains details about sponsored and affiliate tiles
> (ie. frecent site URLs are *not* reported)

Do we send empty pings when there are no sponsored or affiliate tiles on the page?

> Firefox also fetches the tiles distribution once per day.  I believe this
> happens regardless of the settings for suggested tiles, IIRC.  

That's what this bug is about, we should not do that when the user opts out. We need to respect user choice, if only to make slightly skeptical users happy.

> Turning these pings/requests off would require changes to Firefox.

Let's make those changes here.
Flags: needinfo?(tspurway)
(In reply to Tim Taubert [:ttaubert] from comment #5)
> Do we send empty pings when there are no sponsored or affiliate tiles on the
> page?
> 
Here is an example log line from an 'new tab' ping:

{{"tiles":[{"pin":1},{"score":14},{"score":3},{"score":2},{"score":1},{},{},{},{},{},{},{},{},{"id":786},{"id":1357}],"locale":"es-ES","ip":"<redacted>","timestamp":1435795191128,"date":"2015-07-01","ua":"Mozilla\/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:38.0) Gecko\/20100101 Firefox\/38.0","view":5}

The 'tiles' list contains the tiles shown on screen, but no identifying info is stored about those tiles.  In the case where a tile has an 'id' field, this is the tile ID for a sponsored or affiliate tile.  We store these logs for 7 days.


> > Firefox also fetches the tiles distribution once per day.  I believe this
> > happens regardless of the settings for suggested tiles, IIRC.  
> 
> That's what this bug is about, we should not do that when the user opts out.
> We need to respect user choice, if only to make slightly skeptical users
> happy.
> 
> > Turning these pings/requests off would require changes to Firefox.
> 
> Let's make those changes here.

Sounds good.
Flags: needinfo?(tspurway)
Impression/click pings are only sent if the user has suggestions turned on (controlled by the "enhanced" pref):

http://mxr.mozilla.org/mozilla-central/source/browser/modules/DirectoryLinksProvider.jsm?mark=710-714#672

Updated

3 years ago
Blocks: 1172713
To be clear, the json with tiles that could be shown is automatically fetched every 24 hours so that tiles can be shown immediately if the user turns on that functionality. It could be made smarter to lazily fetch assuming the delay in showing the suggestions is acceptable.

However, with bug 1176429 making the new tab page remote, I'm not sure how this will interact. E.g., potentially the remote new tab page only fetches the data as necessary, but its own page/html/js still needs to be downloaded periodically.

Comment 9

3 years ago
Hey Olivier,

Can you please have a look at this and advise?

Thx!
Flags: needinfo?(oyiptong)
As the comments sum up:

1) We are *not* reporting any site action (impression/view/etc) if browser.newtabpage.enhanced is set to false
2) fetches keep occuring on a 'at most once daily' basis

Currently, we will fetch regardless of the settings. The only data exchange is a download to obtain metadata about the tiles. The network traffic is < 20KB including all overheads. No images are downloaded. We are being mindful of the user's bandwidth.

There are two questions here:

a) What it means to turn off things in the newtab page
b) Whether the feature is serving mozilla more than the user

Assuming b) is false, can we say that it is acceptable to 'pre-fetch' data to provide value to the user?
Flags: needinfo?(oyiptong)

Updated

3 years ago
No longer blocks: 1172713

Comment 11

3 years ago
(In reply to Olivier Yiptong [:oyiptong] from comment #10)
> As the comments sum up:
> 
> 1) We are *not* reporting any site action (impression/view/etc) if
> browser.newtabpage.enhanced is set to false
> 2) fetches keep occuring on a 'at most once daily' basis
> 
> Currently, we will fetch regardless of the settings. The only data exchange
> is a download to obtain metadata about the tiles. The network traffic is <
> 20KB including all overheads. No images are downloaded. We are being mindful
> of the user's bandwidth.
> 
> There are two questions here:
> 
> a) What it means to turn off things in the newtab page
> b) Whether the feature is serving mozilla more than the user
> 
> Assuming b) is false, can we say that it is acceptable to 'pre-fetch' data
> to provide value to the user?

Since there is no PII being transferred, we should wait until Remote New Tab is ready to make any changes in behavior. Once we have RNT ready, depending on how frequent we update the payload, we should have pings turned on according to the 'include suggestions' toggle. What the user expects when they turn on the toggle needs to be further tested. The expectation is when they turn suggestions on, they would want them to show up immediately.
(In reply to Kevin Ghim from comment #11)
> What the user expects when
> they turn on the toggle needs to be further tested. The expectation is when
> they turn suggestions on, they would want them to show up immediately.

OTOH, when I turn the toggle off I expect that nothing about my newtab page is sent to Mozilla. That's the case that we in the past cared more about, respecting choice and privacy being the default. We have checkboxes in the Preferences' Privacy section to turn off Telemetry and FHR, but I can't do anything about newtab page pings? That seems very wrong to me.
(Reporter)

Comment 13

3 years ago
i will second that sentiment of comment #12, because this attitude towards user control on show is quite worrying. 

what fraction of the user base who opted out of tiles to you expect to opt-in again and what kind of a benefit does it really provide to them if on that single occasion they get instant suggestions?
please balance this with the expectations of the overwhelming amount of users who opted out of ads or want to have a blank new-tab page (that's over 20% on nightly at the moment and rising), who have therefore given a strong signal that they don't want to ping the tiles server every day, and want to stay opted out.
please note that we will also need to document that current unexpected behaviour on our support site which isn't making the best of impressions: https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-stop-firefox-making-automatic-connections#w_tiles_2

since it takes two clicks to toggle the new tab settings, why don't you initiate the tiles ping once a user clicks on the settings icon on the new tab page instead of doing it daily regardless of user settings? then you'd at least an indication that the user may want to turn on ads again...
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