Yesterday, FireFox users starting noticing a strange plug-in installed in their browsers. The new plugin, Looking Glass, apparently found its way into the new FireFox Quantum browser. The plugin was disabled by default, but many users were alarmed to find that the plugin was there in the first place. When users checked the description of Looking Glass, it said “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS.” This didn't make much sense and only raised more eyebrows.
One user in the support forum wrote that “I did not remember installing this add-on, [and] I would not knowingly install it.” The user further adds that “Any explanations welcome because I can't find any reference online.” So what is this Looking Glass exactly?
As it turns out, Looking Glass was part of Mr. Robot's alternative reality game, where a trail of clues are left by writers for fans to find and discover. Per Mozilla's documentation, this plug-in was designed as a “shared experience to further your immersion into the Mr Robot universe.” It was developed together with collaboration between Mozilla and Mr. Robot team at USA. The app lists both Mozilla and USA executives as authors.
Once the plug-in is enabled, it makes minor changes to specific websites where more clues are left for players of Mr. Robot ARG to find. The plugin isn't really the issue here. The problem that many users have is that a plug-in randomly popped up in their browser unannounced and they were left very alarmed. Here's what one user noted on Hacker news:
There are several scary things about this:
– Unknown Mozilla developers can distribute addons to users without their permission - Mozilla developers can distribute addons to users without their knowledge
– Mozilla developers themselves don't realise the consequences of doing this
– Experiments are not explicitly enabled by users
– Opening the addons window reverts configuration changes which disable experiments
– The only way to properly disable this requires fairly arcane knowledge Firefox preferences (lockpref(), which I'd never heard of until today)
Mozilla, of course, defended the practice. In a statement to Gizmodo, the company explained the secrecy as part of the overall ARG experience. “The experience was kept under wraps to be introduced at the conclusion of the season of Mr. Robot. We gave Mr. Robot fans a unique mystery to solve to deepen their connection and engagement with the show and is only available in Firefox,” the statement reads. “It’s especially important to call out that this collaboration does not compromise our principles or values regarding privacy. The experience does not collect or share any data.”