If you opened up your browser and noticed a strange new extension this week, you’re not alone. Firefox users who are enrolled in Mozilla’s Shield Studies unexpectedly encountered a developer add-on called “Looking Glass.” The description read “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT FROM YOURS” — which understandably freaked a few people out.
It turns out it’s not ransomware or Bitcoin miners invading your system — it’s a promotional campaign for the Mr. Robot television series. The show features a super-hacker and often addresses cybersecurity issues, so “hacking” into a user’s browser with an enigmatic message may have seemed like a clever idea at the time. But, as Mozilla often stresses its commitment to privacy, many users have voiced their concerns about the creepy and intrusive nature of the promotion.
“Folks this is really unacceptable. Reddit is losing their mind about it. It’s fine if this is associated with Shields studies — but you need use a meaningful description — not some random quote that you think might be cute,” wrote one user on the Mozilla support forum.
Following the user backlash, Mozilla moved the extension to the Firefox Add-on store, and it will no longer automatically be downloaded to your browser.
“Our goal with the custom experience we created with Mr. Robot was to engage our users in a fun and unique way,” Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, chief marketing officer at Mozilla, told Gizmodo. “Real engagement also means listening to feedback. And so while the web extension/add-on that was sent out to Firefox users never collected any data, and had to be explicitly enabled by users playing the game before it would affect any web content, we heard from some of our users that the experience we created caused confusion.”
As TechCrunch noted, the show may be quite popular with developers, but it’s hardly mainstream enough to assume that more than a small percentage of Firefox users even know what it is. Mozilla responded to clarify that it was an alternate reality game timed to coincide with the season finale of the show.
“Firefox worked with the Mr. Robot team to create a custom experience that would surprise and delight fans of the show and our users,” Mozilla told TechCrunch. “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.”
According to Engadget, the extension doesn’t do anything unless you opt into the game itself. If you don’t want anything to do with it, type about:addons into the address bar and remove “Looking Glass.”
The Shield Studies program is a way for users to test programs before they’re released. Most ask for permission before installing, but some are installed automatically and require you to actively remove it. As some people weren’t even aware they were part of the Shield program to begin with, this particular stunt seems to have backfired.