Advertisers Still Hate Mozilla’s Tracking Policy

    June 29, 2013
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

For a while there, it looked like the online advertising industry was going to catch a breather as Mozilla worked on a new cookie policy. Its vacation was cut short, however, as Mozilla recently announced its partnership with Stanford on what its calls a “Cookie Clearinghouse.”

The Cookie Clearinghouse is software that’s designed similarly to adblocker software. In short, it will create a cookie block-list based upon certain criteria while giving users control over which cookies are blocked. It seemed like a better alternative to just outright blocking all third-party cookies, but the advertising industry says the new policy is still harmful.

In a new blog post from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, its president and CEO, Randall Rothenberg, says that Mozilla’s cookie policy is like a “kangaroo cookie court.” In other words, he says that Mozilla cookie policy is still bad, and that it might be even worse because it creates “an arbitrary group” that determines “who can do business with whom.”

Do you think the IAB is right to be concerned over the cookie clearinghouse? Let us know in the comments.

Rothenberg goes on to say that Mozilla is not honoring the DAA Principles – self-regulatory guidelines that the advertising industry has agreed to abide by – in its new Cookie Clearinghouse:

We admit we were hopeful when Mozilla proffered that its new system for managing cookies would make exceptions for “sites complying with DAA opt-out and supporting DNT.” But its proposal does nothing of the sort. Hundreds of companies, representing thousands of Web sites, belong to the DAA program; yet their advertising will be peremptorily blocked by Mozilla’s system. Tens of millions of consumers who have visited the DAA site and affirmatively opted to do nothing — effectively choosing to allow ads relevant to them to be delivered — will find their choice sabotaged. And Mozilla’s argument that sites “supporting DNT” may still be able to deliver relevant advertising is disingenuous. Since there is not yet a consensus definition for DNT – partly because Mozilla allies have so mismanaged or undermined the process for reaching consensus – it’s not currently possible for sites to support it.

At this point, Rothenberg is right. Mozilla’s system treats a non-choice as a vote in favor of no tracking in Mozilla’s new Do Not Track options. The IAB feels that a non-choice should mean that a consumer is fine with being tracked. They will only not track when the user explicitly states that they don’t want to be tracked. Mozilla’s system allows this explicit option, but it’s set to say nothing (i.e. don’t track) by default.

Rothenberg also says that Mozilla’s new system will keep small publishers and advertisers out of the online ad game by becoming a gatekeeper of sorts:

Worse, there is nothing in the Mozilla system that recognizes, let alone offers solutions for, the particular needs of the many thousands of small publishers and retailers that depend on the Internet supply chain and the third-party cookies that, however imperfectly, are a central component of it. By making it punishingly difficult for advertisers to reach highly engaged audience segments through small publishers dependent on this third-party-cookie supply chain, Mozilla’s new system will prompt marketers to concentrate their ad buys among a tiny handful of giant Internet companies that dominate the deployment of first-party cookies. This fear has led almost one thousand “long tail” Internet companies to sign a petition asking Mozilla to reconsider its determination to block third-party cookies by decree.

The difference between Mozilla and IAB’s philosophies on DNT illustrate that W3C and advertising industries still can’t agree on what DNT means. Both sides also accuse the other of sabotaging the DNT negotiations. In short, we’re not getting anywhere anytime soon and IAB feels that Mozilla is going around everybody in its push to block cookies:

The open-source Internet supply chain is a wellspring of strength; it has fostered one of the greatest fast waves of economic and cultural innovation in modern history. It is also a source of weakness, because it creates vulnerabilities in securing individuals’ and companies’ data and in assuring their desire to keep certain activities and interests private. But acknowledging and correcting for those weaknesses doesn’t require taking a blunt sledgehammer and destroying the digital supply chain. Rather, we need rational, consensus solutions that will meet all major stakeholders’ needs.

That Mozilla doesn’t understand this is unsurprising. After all, it represents nobody. It is part of a global distribution cartel whose members have been in a perpetual state of war with each other for 15 years. Browser makers should not be dictating the kind of economic and cultural policies Mozilla is trying to implement any more than television set manufacturers should be deciding which shows make it to your home.

Pretty strong words, but Rothenberg does have a point. The Web is big enough for everyone. As we’ve pointed out before, the Web remains largely free thanks to advertising. That being said, we can’t ignore the legitimate privacy concerns that online ad tracking presents. Both sides need to come to an agreement before something irreparably breaks.

Do you think the ad industry and privacy proponents can come to an agreement? Is Mozilla moving too fast by introducing the cookie clearinghouse before a potential agreement can be reached? Let us know in the comments.

  • http://cursorium.co.uk Chris Walter

    The computers belong to us, we should decide who gets to store whatever on them.

  • http://www.webdesignjustforyou.com Eileen Forte

    Personally, if mozilla tends to restrict ads, it’s a point in their favor and I will use them more.

  • http://www.daniel-bauer.com Daniel

    One point more for Mozilla. People should generally get more aware of how ad companies try to supervise them. Ad providers must find their own way to make their ads interesting. If they cannot show me something that interests me supervising me, it’s their problem and not mine and I don’t care at all if such useless companies simply disappear, just like any shop that cannot survive without putting it’s nose into my private life.

  • http://www.adovationz.co.nz Digby Geen

    Yes I Do think Mozilla are being far too agressive.

    The only ads that should be blocked are the pop ups and the pop unders.

    All other ads MUST be shown.

    That is how the internet is paid for.

    • John


  • Janet

    I like Mozilla’s stance. I believe I should be asked if its ok for me to be tracked as the default rather than being told that it is ok for me to be tracked. it’s like being told if you have your door open anyone can walk in to your property. it doesn’t matter if there is a fly screen on the door. if the doors open I can come in uninvited.
    when did advertisers gain the right to dictate privacy.
    the Internet is not free! someone pays for their infrastructure to provide websites. you pay for your machine and access to the Internet.

  • Marko

    Well done Mozilla, individuals should have the choice. Business will have to do its homework and develop alternate methods to reach and satisfy customers, rather than annoying them. Keep up the great work Mozilla by looking after the interests of all individuals!!!

  • http://www.computershowto.pro Tezuka

    In a world in which small businesses, home office – small office companies or individuals do not have the big budgets to play TV or superbowl commercials, the only ad space they can get is the internet advertising space. I personally think that completely restricting ads on the internet will completley kill the net, and will give the power back to the TV station owners. Think twice, anyone, before you say that you support Mozilla’s stupidity. Because this is shear stupidity.This will simply result in a state of things in which even if you had a loyal readership on a website or blog, or a media outlet, the costs of which you’ve supported so far with revenue from advertising, you will simply have to close it. Oh, and how about the millions of jobs that will be lost because of it ? Have you guys considered that, also ? No revenue from ads on the net = no internet advertising companies. Which means, just a few million jobs, right ? NO problem, right, TV stations need loyal followers and couch potatoes, so if everybody in the online ad business just loses everything… well they can still stay at home and watch TV, right ?
    Think at least TWICE before you say that what Mozilla is trying to do, is OK. My personal feeling is that it’s a commercial crime.

    • http://www.technopuzzles.com Brian B

      The advertising industry NEED to get a job. Unemployed? I don’t think so. Most get their posts by marketing themselves to other clones and as they are generally unproductive, what loss can there possibly be. Middlemen taking a margin on nothing.
      Either way, I’ve made my point here already that the SE’s and the advertisers have done their jobs by getting their promos before my eyes during a search.
      I don’t need to have my local supermarket manager follow me home just so he can knock and offer me something else. The choice of interruption has to belong to the buyers…NOT to the Money Stalkers.

    • John

      It will not kill the net. I do not need to have any advertisements. When I require something I want to buy, I generally find it very easily.

    • jamie

      Tezuka – no one is saying to stop advertising by large or small companies in any media. What we are saying is “stop the cookie tracking approach as a default standard”.
      Your argument is illogical and sensationalist, not factual.

  • http://www.ChefLeeZ.com Chef LeeZ

    Most consumers, including ourselves, don’t really understand tracking cookies but one thing is for sure no one likes being watched/studied, especially when the known result will be a barrage a related and unrelated advertising. We vote for my controlling cookies and who can watch/study us and who can’t.

  • http://www.technopuzzles.com Brian B

    Personally think Mozilla is going in the right direction.

    These private search engines are the ones that make all the loot from advertising fees off the sellers, while boasting they are the best source of search data. Okay then, that fits with me…I search for something and within the search results there are some ads. So far all fine. I might even choose to view some ads and that’s good too.
    Why now the search engine (already paid) and the advertiser (already made me aware of them) need to track me down and force other unrequested stuff at me…beggars belief.
    Mozilla is absolutely right in its stance.
    Advertisers have zero right to track me down for any attempt at a forced sale. I want the same right as with my TV…the mute button and channel changer work well to remove objectionable of bullshit ads.
    So what do these poor little advertisers lose then?? Nothing.
    We also all know that Google is planning to charge for use of their search in some way. When this happens I am off. Power to Mozilla I think. Open source is the only way to obstruct and notify these mega suppliers to be customer focused at some level…not just money and power focused.

  • John

    Mozilla must not back down. They have the right idea. Besides, if you do really want the adverts, there are options to turn them on. I don’t know what the advertisers are complaining about.

  • Rick M.

    I like what they are doing. Because I can’t block the prolific Cookie sites one by one, I block them all, and give permission only when needed. I don’t like unwanted ad, or tracking cookies on my computer without knowing consent, and with this, at least the ones I want on my computer, will be allowed. People like Randall Rothenberg assume they have an inherent right to my paid for computer, and internet service I’ve paid for, but they don’t. They have no right to make money off of my personal investment Un-asked for, or Un-reimbursed to me for.

  • kevin morley

    At last they are following Microsoft’s lead in IE. I use firefox more than I used to but for private untracked browsing I have been using IE-10, it used to be firefox but I’ve found the odd history when typing a URL but IE no such issues.

    I think there could be a blanket method used by all browsers, if a website is viewed in europe the 1st time a “cookie law” notification is delivered to the user we have to accept or decline or after so many seconds 30-60 if no selection it is presumed accepted (you can’t miss the warning)

    It’s not beyond them to have a setting where if you block in firefox then chrome, IE, safari, dragon will serve it as blocked too

  • mike

    Way to many ads directed at me. I would like to save time deleting all that crap that comes my way!

  • Ben

    A no choice should mean NO. Adds are ruining the internet and despite what Rothenburg conveniently wants to believe people dont want targeted add and they dont want to be tracked we want our privacy.

    Well dont Mozzilla and go to hell add acompanys

  • Ben

    Add companys are killing the internet. Already on this Ive had 2 pop up adds and i can see a further 3 on my display. Its annoying if Add companys were not already destroying the internet, to the point you cant watch a video or visit a page without adds then people wouldnt care. but the sad fact is advertising companys are destroying the internet and ruining it as a user experience. Far more people would want the default to be no, and to block all adds and tracking cookies altogether if they could. If all the advertising companys went bump, The world would be a far more enjoyable place.

  • http://www.livecrisis.ru/ Verdan

    Only old school, only IE:)

  • http://webpage-design-kentucky.com papamikr69

    I am just wondering how this will effect affiliate marketers that rely on cookies to increase sales by individuals re-visiting an affiliates site at a later date to make a purchase. In most cases if a buyer clicks on an affiliates link, it sets a cookie with the affiliates name or number attached to it. The cookie is usefully set for thirty days. So if the same person revisits the sales webpage even if not through the affiliates link, and buys somthing, the affiliate will still get credit for a sale. Will this new policy effect this?

  • http://www.theheriotagehills.com Dan Collins

    Mozilla is definitely on the right track. There are many, many ways to advertise on the web, other than annoying cookies that carry potential security issues with them. Frankly, if I am looking for a product, I go looking for it. There is no need, what-so-ever, to push it down my optic nerve via unasked for pop-ups.

  • miriam

    Not impressed with the idea of being Internet tracked without permission but very mad about racist comments such as “kangaroo court” being accepted as the norm… You guys think Australian courts / legal systems are a joke?

    • brian b


  • http://www.kirovobl.ru Valentina

    I love Mozzila

  • http://www.brazil24.ru/ vika

    Valentina, lol, Mozzila for childrens