Mozilla Under Attack By Ad Industry For Planning To Block Cookies By Default In Firefox

    March 15, 2013
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

Over the past few years, Mozilla has emerged as a company dedicated to the privacy of its users. It’s going to take that to the next level with Firefox 22 as the browser will start blocking cookies by default. The ad industry isn’t particularly happy about it.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau sent out a press release this week claiming that Mozilla is “undermining American small business” by choosing to block cookies by default. The group says that the makers of Firefox are also undermining consumer choice by automatically blocking cookies, instead of giving users a choice.

“Thousands of small businesses that make up the diversity of content and services online will be forced to close their doors,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “This move will not put the interest of users first. Nor does it promote transparency or ‘move the web forward’ as Mozilla claims in its announcement. It will not advance Mozilla Corporation’s objective, as stated in its bylaws, of ‘promoting choice and innovation on the internet,’ but will, instead, impede both.”

As Consumer Affairs points out, Firefox isn’t the first browser to block third-party cookies by default. Apple’s Safari has been doing it for quite a while as well. It’s also not like Mozilla will be blocking all cookies anyway. It will only be blocking cookies from Web sites that users don’t frequently visit. What that means is a user’s one time visit to a blog covering the world of decorative dog sweaters won’t see any tracking cookies installed on their browser.

This isn’t the first or last time that advertisers will be upset with browser makers over controversial pro-privacy practices. Microsoft was caught in the middle of a controversy last year over its decision to make Do Not Track the default option in Internet Explorer 10. That decision has yet to break the Web or online advertisers, and Mozilla’s move will probably not affect much either.

That being said, advertising has a valid purpose on the Internet, and shouldn’t be blocked just because. Many of the things we enjoy for free are paid for with advertising. That’s why there needs to be choice in the matter, and Mozilla will hopefully make that choice clear when it starts to block third-party cookies by default later this year.

  • John S

    I think we fool ourselves into thinking this will not lead to retribution by the ad industry. I suspect some sites will even be coded to break if you try and block ads. In the end ads pay for web sites. Not you and me who surf them. Their is a disturbing misguided attempt here at censoring ads for the sake of them being ads? Should I remind Mozilla that if it were not for Google supporting Mozilla right now their would be no Mozilla or Firefox? Guess where much of that Google money comes from Mozilla? That’s right, ad revenue. Are you not biting the hand that feeds you?

    • rabblerabble

      John, you do realize that there will still be advertisers, right? Also, we don’t have to allow ads to install these tracking cookies on our pcs. They can advertise, but they don’t have to monitor our computer usage. If they want to advertise a product, they can, but don’t track me to give me the “best targeted ad.” That’s us doing the work for them by showing them our habits. Let them figure it out and develop ads that actually make us want to buy stuff rather than datamining.

    • Garbo

      Ads will always be shown. We don’t need BIG BROTHER tracking our movements, actually OR virtually. At some point you just have to say, “My right to privacy trumps business’ right to find intrusive ways to extract yet ANOTHER dollar out of my wallet.”

  • CarlosN

    Consumers should be allowed to make the choice. If you want adds you can turn that back on. Blocking pop ups is hardly censorship. While adds pay for websites, consumers pay the advertisers.

    • IagoSRL

      CarlosN, as ‘B’ commented, ads still will be showed, ever. But they will not know what sites you visited, by default; You Can still choice, explicitly say to the browser that you want that ads know your browser history -on the sites the ads company operates-, something that currently happens on all browsers. In the site donttrack.us there is more info about how tracking works.

      About ‘Blocking pop ups is hardly censorship’, there is nothing related to pop-ups here. In fact, All major browsers have anti-popup technology since years (see each browser features).

  • Justayoungstud

    I have been on the web since Mozilla created the first web browser and can proudly say I have never clicked on a single advertizement. I block Cookies ALL the time and wipe out all those hidden Flash cookies continuously. Web developers have made it impossible to not use cookies at all but I get rid of them as fast as I can. I still use Mozilla after all these years. I have never used M$ Internet Exploder.

  • Manoel

    John S: this doesn’t harm Google at all. On the contrary. The ones being harmed are pure ad providers which (currently) install cookies directly from their banners and will no longer be able to monitor the navigation of Firefox users.

    Google, Facebook and other ad providers which own often-visited domains will be fine, since they can still install cookies when users visit their websites directly.

  • B

    Wait a minute. Blocking cookies does not stop ads. Cookies are for tracking to see if you’ve been on the site before. Advertisers can still show their ads.

  • http://www.acupunctureforlife.co.uk acuvic

    Cookies can be used to help the surfer too. Like not having to keep logging into a site repeatly. And Google mail uses it to help the more secure 2-stage log-in (you don’t have to keep repeatedly entering your verifying code). My bank use it to remember the multi-digit user ID (not password!) so I don’t have to. And on my website, it is used to remember that the visitor had closed the “news box”, so for 24 hours it won’t keep popping up. The misuse of it to track users is the problem but blocking cookies totally is like the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bath water.

  • Paul Brown

    This is for 3rd party cookies only. Apple/Safari has been doing it for years. Get it done Mozilla, who needs 3rd party cookies. Advertisers only, so stop hijacking my session and let me choose if I want to accept your cookies, 3rd party cookies has nothing to do with the site I’m actually visiting.

  • Jihn

    I block 3rd party cookies by default, and have several addons to my FireFox Browser, including Ghostery, Adblock, Adblock Plus, Better Privacy, DoNotTrackMe, Google Sharing – to do many things that blocking 3rd Party Cookies is unable to do. And my whole user experience is all the better for it. Each of those addons tends to do something the others don’t, but with some overlap. And it is astonishing what some of those addons reveal is going on without your knowledge, especially Ghostery. If there is a problem, which is rare, I can white-list. As far as I am concerned, If I want something, I will go and look for it, I don’t want a multitude of things in my face that I don’t want, slowing down the broadband connection that I have paid for, unless they are willing to contribute to my cost.

    Advertisers should consider 3rd party cookies are a subscription service, that they are supplied only if the user want’s them.

    As for the Interactive Advertising bureau saying that “the makers of Firefox are also undermining consumer choice by automatically blocking cookies, instead of giving users a choice.” – The user still does have choice, they can turn them on if they wish.

    All praise to Mozilla, keep up the good work.

  • sdfba

    While I don’t like any sites tracking me, I PARTICULARLY dislike ggl and facebook and their surveilling, controlling ilk doing it. it appears from this article that small random sites will be cookie-blocked, while the big bastards who are the real scourge, will get to track as always. now google are trying to gather all usernames and connect them to real identities. to do this they are using cookies and making it tediously hard to sign up under multiple accounts. they have our usernames and they have our passwords. they have no damned right to our ip addresses, useragents or anything else! especially not for the purposes of denying us access to communications.
    facebook, i read today, is demanding government ID to locked out users.
    this is ENTIRELY sinister as far as i’m concerned. there should by now be no doubt whatsoever in anyone’s mind that there is a deliberate programme underway to strip all netizens of any privacy.

    suggest the populace get some cop on tout suite and do all possible to thwart this.

  • http://fiosemail Rand

    I get these unsolicited emails from business with four or five digit numbers beside them. I put them in spam, but the emails keep coming. How can I stop this? Vistaprint is one of them