(Credit: Screenshot: Tom McNamara/Download.com)

If you're browsing the internet this week, you're probably dealing with a blizzard of Black Friday promotions and gift guides, and the truly novel ideas could get lost in the storm. Of course, the CNET Holiday Gift Guide should steer you in the right direction, as is tradition. But if you are a privacy-minded holiday shopper, you may be wondering how these gadgets handle your day-to-day personal data.

For that, Mozilla has fashioned its own gift guide ranging from the Nintendo Switch hybrid game console to the Amazon Echo Show, and not everybody passes its litmus tests. For the Switch, Mozilla has nary a complaint, but for the Echo Show, it says cheekily, "Now you don't just get to wonder if Alexa is listening to you, you get to wonder if she's watching as well." (But while Amazon's smart speakers and displays may cause concern, its Kindle e-readers rank near the top of Mozilla's list.)

SEE: Mozilla Firefox web browser integrates price tracking to improve web shopping

Interestingly, the rankings of these dozens of popular gifts appear to be fully crowdsourced, rather than imposed by Mozilla. Users who visit the page are invited to vote up or down on an item's perceived privacy level, and the "best" items float to the top of the chart. As you scroll down the page, voter perceptions decline until the emoji guidance indicates a substantial amount of alarm.

Independently of privacy perception, visitors can also vote on how likely they are to actually purchase one of these items. So while the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit is rated very highly in the gift guide for privacy, the majority of voters indicate that they won't be buying it; that's what the thumbs-down icon communicates.

As you might imagine, the thumbs-down becomes more frequent as you scroll down, and it looks like the majority of the items in the guide won't be under the trees of the guide's voters. Almost everything with a built-in camera or microphone appears to be facing an uphill battle, with the notable exceptions of the Kindle Fire HD tablet and the iPad.

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Some items do get Mozilla's seal of approval, if they abide by five rules: "The product must use encryption; the company must provide automatic security updates; if a product uses a password, it must require a strong password; the company must have a way to manage security vulnerabilities found in their products; and the company must have an accessible privacy policy."

Mozilla also isn't one to throw stones in glass houses. When it comes to privacy, its credentials are pretty solid. Its Firefox browser (Android, iOS) is used by the Tor Project as the tool to anonymize people on the Tor network, and the company recently partnered with ProtonVPN (the makers of ProtonMail) to offer a virtual private network service to a small test group of potential customers.

Speaking of which, ProtonVPN also announced a long-anticipated iOS version of its app today, which is available for download right now.


  • Mozilla has released a holiday gift guide that emphasizes the important of customer privacy, rather than device quality or popularity.
  • Visitors to the guide are invited to rank gift ideas according to the perception of privacy, and items that have built-in cameras and microphones mostly fare poorly in that regard.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.