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Apple, Microsoft and Google attacked for "evil" plugins

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By Barry Collins

Posted on 29 Nov 2010 at 08:43

A leading Mozilla executive has attacked Google, Apple and Microsoft for installing browser plugins without permission.

Asa Dotzler, the co-founder of the Spread Firefox project and a member of Mozilla's leadership team, claims all three of the "evil" computing giants are installing plugins into Firefox without users' prior permission.

"Why do Microsoft, Google, Apple, and others think that it is an OK practice to add plug-ins to Firefox when I'm installing their software packages?" Dotzler asks on his blog.

"When I installed iTunes, in order to manage my music collection and sync to my iPod, why did Apple think it was OK to add the iTunes Application Detector plug-in to my Firefox web browser without asking me?

"Why did Microsoft think it was OK to sneak its Windows Live Photo Gallery or Office Live Plug-in for Firefox into my browser (presumably) when I installed Microsoft Office?

"What makes Google think it's reasonable behaviour for it to slip a Google Update plugin into Firefox when I installed Google Earth or Google Chrome (not sure which one caused this) without asking me first?"

The Mozilla executive claims the unwanted plugins are comparable to viruses. "That is precisely how a Trojan horse operates," he writes. "These additional pieces of software installed without my consent may not be malicious but the means by which they were installed was sneaky, underhanded, and wrong."

He urges all three companies to stop installing the plugins immediately. "Microsoft, stop being evil. Apple, stop being evil. Google, stop being evil," he adds. "It's really simple. Ask first!"

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User comments

Hmm

its not very hard to disable them, or shall i say since i am using the Beta 7 of 4.0 Firefox, none of the plug ins are even compatible.
But i see the point...

By mobilegnet on 29 Nov 2010

Most people I know of barely know what an addon is, let alone uninstall them.

I agree, it is good to at least be told what's being installed.

However, that being said I think Mozilla make it too easy to install addons, I think they should make it so that any addon has to be authorised before being installed and that you can't (easily at least) install plugins otherwise.

By tech3475 on 29 Nov 2010

Microsoft

Some of Microsoft's add-ons (and those from anti-virus companies!) won't let themselves be deaktivated, let alone removed!

By big_D on 29 Nov 2010

What I wonder is...

...if instead of ranting, why not just have Firefox warn when it detects new plugins since the last startup or attempts to install plugins while running?

By lokash20 on 29 Nov 2010

Dumb Simple Solution

I second tech3475:
make it impossible to install a plugin without permission

By Ray_P on 29 Nov 2010

Agree but also..

..I found an extension installed without permission called XULRunner. It may have been malware but a quick search said it came from Mozilla! Uninstalled anyway but had to edit registry and AppData folder.

By mviracca on 29 Nov 2010

Yes and No

When an Automatic Update from Microsoft Update or Apples Software update installs a plugin, I have an issue with that like how .net was added to firefox without users knowing. When something installs from a users explicit decision such as installing iTunes or MS Live and it installs a plugin he's wrong. User initiated installs is the permission granted to Apple or Microsoft or Google to install whatever is being offered. If the user fails to read the finer details of what’s being installed or reads the installer options such as, include whatever plugin, it’s not their fault. There is a difference between Automatic non user initiated plugin installs from updates and user initiated software installs that include a plugin.

By Huzur79 on 29 Nov 2010

As well

Firefox could easily just audit its plugins from last start to see if anything has been added in the unofficial way and warn the user or by default disable it and ask the user to enable it. Its in there power to do something about it but instead they take the lazy route or political route to complain about it instead. So one must ask what is the Agenda saying Microsoft, Apple and Google are evil when they have the power to code changes to prevent it vs saying the Maker of Internet Explorer and the Maker of Safari and the Maker of Chrome are evil. Oh I think I just answered the Political question with that last line.

By Huzur79 on 29 Nov 2010

As well

Firefox could easily just audit its plugins from last start to see if anything has been added in the unofficial way and warn the user or by default disable it and ask the user to enable it. Its in there power to do something about it but instead they take the lazy route or political route to complain about it instead. So one must ask what is the Agenda saying Microsoft, Apple and Google are evil when they have the power to code changes to prevent it vs saying the Maker of Internet Explorer and the Maker of Safari and the Maker of Chrome are evil. Oh I think I just answered the Political question with that last line.

By Huzur79 on 29 Nov 2010

Yes - and wasn't it Mozilla who unilaterally decided to deactivate some of my plug-ins? Did _they_ ask first? Nope.

Same thing - just a different direction.

By AdrianB on 30 Nov 2010

FireFox Disabling Plug-Ins?!

I've NEVER had FireFox disabling plug-ins by itself unless they're incompatible after a version update. (& it ALWAYS come with a warning @ restart) Plus... FireFox has the right to do WHATEVER it wants to it's own software to prevent others from messing it up IF they choose to do so.... It's their property & not yours.

Apple, Google & MS has NO RIGHT adding things to other software programs during it's own update unless given permission by the user.... Plain & Simple.

Don't bash a company for trying to keep the integrity of it's own software program.... Just look at Apple.... when it comes to things like this.... they're WAY WORSE then anyone else. Yet, I don't see you saying a word about it.

When someone sneaks a date rape drug in your drink w/o you knowing it.... Do you think it's their fault or yours?!?!

By SFDKDJ on 2 Dec 2010

If Firefox is designed to permit the addition of trojan plug-ins without user permission, then this is clearly a security hole in the design of Firefox. If it is not a security hole then it is behaviour designed into the system. Either way, the fault lies with Firefox and the solution is not to create a faux news item to distract attention and smear rival browsers but to fix the bug.

By vjosullivan on 2 Dec 2010

Free Open Source

Firefox is Free Open Source software. Other parties can do whatever they want with it. That's just how it is when you give away the store.

By lweze on 2 Dec 2010

Simply Hacking

I would say that if one application was to install plugins into another non-related application without permission being asked, that constituted a form of hacking. I don't authorise Microsoft to Hack my software that they haven't written, just because the provide plug-ins they think I may like. I have enough to deal with when their own updates/plug-ins trash the bits of my system they developed. As it is I have to keep disabling plug-ins in Firefox because Windows updates keep turning them back on.
Just because you might have open-source software, still gives no one the automatic right to meddle with it on private individuals computer.

By Matt2hew on 4 Dec 2010

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