Privacy concerns with foxmarks / xmarks

April 13, 2009 at 1:30 pm

The foxmarks plugin is a very popular plugin for firefox that lets you sync bookmarks between computers.  I've used it ever since google bookmarks was cancelled and has worked great for me.

Recently they announced changing their name to xmarks as well as adding some new "features."  A lot of them revolve around bookmark discovery.  xmarks scans your bookmarks anonymously to see what pages have been bookmarked a lot.  It can then show a special icon next to something that has been bookmarked by other people.  Now they really reinforce that the data is anonymous but it's still a concern for me.  Bookmarks I really want to share I bookmark at delicious.  If I'm not saving it on there, I generally don't want to share the bookmark.  It could be private administration pages, for example.

Good news is you can opt out.  Login to your account and choose change your bookmark options (that link should take you straight to that page after login). remove the checkmark and save changes.  Alternatively it's pretty simple to delete your account entirely if you're really concerned.

Only other alternative I can think of is weave by mozilla.  It encrypts the data before sending it to the server so there's no way they can access it.  It's also possible to store the bookmarks on your own server.  To be fair xmarks offers this as well.  You also may want to go into xmarks preferences and disable all the suggestion links.  Although there's the privacy concerns but I disabled it only because that's extra network requests that are made and can slow down page views slightly.  May not be too significant but with all the other plugins I have the fewer extra requests I'm making, the better.

I'm still going to stay with xmarks.  Currently they support firefox, internet explorer, and safari.  I'm hoping they add support for a couple other browsers I'm interested in; Opera and Chrome.  Weave is still in alpha/beta.  As of writing they're at version 0.3.  I've used it before and worked more or less fine, had some minor stability issues that may have been fixed by now.

Posted in Security and Privacy.

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