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While inspecting some logs, I noticed that Mozilla's Firefox web browser appears to repeatedly connect to servers for Google Analytics.

Can others confirm this issue?

Is there any way to turn this off from within Firefox?

(Obviously google-analytics.com can be completely blocked at many lower levels, including at the router or hardware/software firewalls.)

Given that Mozilla touts Firefox as a privacy-centric browser, repeatedly connecting to Google tracking servers seems to be a violation of their credo. Yes, Google Analytics is supposed to be anonymous, but it still requires connecting directly to Google servers. And Google is the mega-corporation that drove vehicles around our planet collecting everyone's WiFi transmissions, and then denied that they had any idea they were collecting all that data.

UPDATE

I tested this using a clean install of Firefox version 48.0.2 (current stable release) with no non-default add-ons (extensions, plugins, themes, services) installed, and with the When Firefox starts option set to Show a blank page. By "no non-default add-ons", I am simply referring to the fact that, by default, Firefox installs a plugin for OpenH264.

Note that I see the traffic from Firefox to the google-analytics.com domain without browsing any web pages at all. Just opening Firefox shows traffic to google-analytics.com in Process Monitor.

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    I have run Firefox through proxies many times and noticed it connecting to various services, including many from mozilla and also SafeBrowsing from Google: safebrowsing.google.com. Any GA interactions have come from an application or from plugins. – Jonah Benton Sep 7 '16 at 19:43
  • @JonahB Thanks. Would you mind testing it again with the current release version of Firefox (48.0.2)? I just performed testing on a fresh Firefox install with no non-default plugins (Firefox now includes several plugins by default), and it is connecting to servers at the google-analytics.com domain. Because Mozilla runs different experiments on different installations (for example, as of this writing, 1% of installations get e10s enabled by default), the more people who test for this issue, the better. – RockPaperLizard Sep 7 '16 at 19:53
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    you mean it's connecting without browsing any pages? – dandavis Sep 7 '16 at 20:16
  • @dandavis Yes, exactly. – RockPaperLizard Sep 7 '16 at 21:33
  • I've noticed that I can't block FF (current version) from acessing www.google-analytics.com/ga.js neither with HOSTS file, neither blacklisting in µBlock origin. Couldn't find the cause yet. Note: I've tried pointing the OS to a custom DNS server too, unsuccessfuly (it seems that it simply isn't using my DNS for this particular domain). Cleaned cache, tried "Clean DNS Cache" extension too. I'm worried about some virus infection, or worse, some DNS circumvention by the browser itself. I will keep searching for clues. Current suspects are: some virus, the browser itself, and even the anti-virus. – Bacco Oct 15 '16 at 1:24
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Mozilla Firefox does not make connections to Google on it's own. It could be:

  • One of the add-ons or plugins, but then you would have to look at the full URL string of such request. It's OK to disable all plugins and all add-ons which are not very popular or known to be malware, or recently turned malware (some organizations are taking over old add-ons and load them with malware)
  • Website you are visiting can be simply making there requests

There was once "Tracking Protection" initiative in Firefox but today it seems broken. However you can try give it a shot, see here: Firefox Tracking Protection (you need to enable privacy.trackingprotection.enabled)

Another alternative is to use Private Browsing. Private Browsing

Finally, there's 3rd party add-on uBlock Origin - with this you can be sure no more requests to Google Analytics while keeping the websites working. Of course 3rd party add-ons are not so very safe, and may become a malware in future, so deployment to many users is not recommended.

  • Have you tested this? On which Firefox versions? BTW, it's Mozilla Firefox, not Google Firefox. It is doing this on a fresh install of Firefox, with no non-default extensions (Firefox now includes several plugins by default), and without performing any web browsing or having any start page. – RockPaperLizard Sep 7 '16 at 21:36
  • Sorry for the typo. So the private browsing is not working well - it breaks some sites. But uBlock Origin works OK. Many people have all plugins disabled today. Let me look at my Firefox if it's doing as well... – Aria Sep 7 '16 at 21:48
  • No problem! :) Looking forward to what you discover. – RockPaperLizard Sep 7 '16 at 21:50
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    OK so my clean Firefox 48 on Linux is checking Google servers for Certificate Revocation Lists. But so far no Google Analytics over http or https. It is also checking for various updates. – Aria Sep 7 '16 at 22:13
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    Interesting. Thanks. I'm wondering if the connections to google-analytics.com has anything to do with the experiments that Mozilla runs on certain installations. – RockPaperLizard Sep 8 '16 at 3:42

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