Mozilla pauses Facebook advertising post-Cambridge Analytica scandal

Mozilla and Facebook are on a break.
Image: AOP.Press/Corbis via Getty Images

Don’t call it a Facebook exodus. At least not yet.

Mozilla announced Thursday it would “pause” advertising on Facebook. The Firefox nonprofit company is pulling a Ross from Friends thanks to Facebook’s relationship with Cambridge Analytica, which exposed the data of 50 million Facebook users “without their knowledge or consent.” 

Denelle Dixon, Mozilla’s chief business and legal officer, explained the decision in a blog post:

We understand that Facebook took steps to limit developer access to friends’ data beginning in 2014. This was after Facebook started its relationship with Cambridge University Professor Aleksandr Kogan, whose decision to share data he collected from Facebook with Cambridge Analytica is currently in the news. This news caused us to take a closer look at Facebook’s current default privacy settings given that we support the platform with our advertising dollars. While we believe there is still more to learn, we found that its current default settings leave access open to a lot of data – particularly with respect to settings for third party apps.

Specifically, Mozilla is concerned about the default app permissions that it says lack transparency about how third-party apps can access users’ data. Mozilla is perturbed that if Facebook users play games, read news, or take quizzes on Facebook, they are likely unknowingly opening up their information including work, education, timeline posts, and more, to external companies.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg pledged to revise privacy settings to restrict this kind of access. But Mozilla isn’t taking his word for it. 

“We are encouraged that Mark Zuckerberg has promised to improve the privacy settings and make them more protective,” Dixon wrote. “When Facebook takes stronger action in how it shares customer data, specifically strengthening its default privacy settings for third party apps, we’ll consider returning.”

Message received, Mozilla.

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