Mozilla Might Have Just Solved Its Cookie Problem

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Mozilla enraged advertisers earlier this year when it said it would block all third-party cookies in its popular Firefox browser. Those same advertisers breathed a collective sigh of relief when Mozilla put those plans on hold to fix a problem in its anti-cookie patch. Now Mozilla is back on the warpath again after finding a potential solution.

Mozilla's Brendan Eich updated his blog today with news of a new cookie software system out of Stanford called Cookie Clearinghouse. According to its Web site, it will "publish block-lists and and allow-lists based on objective, predictable criteria." In other words, it creates lists of good cookies and bad cookies that software vendors can then integrate into their own browsers.

Eich feels that Cookie Clearinghouse will help Mozilla better adhere to its proposed default third-party cookie policy:

  • We want a third-party cookie policy that better protects privacy and encourages transparency.
  • Naive visited-based blocking results in significant false negative and false positive errors.
  • We need an exception management mechanism to refine the visited-based blocking verdicts.
  • This exception mechanism cannot rely solely on the user in the loop, managing exceptions by hand. (When Safari users run into a false positive, they are advised to disable the block, and apparently many do so, permanently.)
  • The only credible alternative is a centralized block-list (to cure false negatives) and allow-list (for false positives) service.
  • According to Eich, Mozilla will start to test Cookie Clearinghouse integration soon. In the meantime, the previous anti-cookie patch will remain active in Firefox Aurora.

    So, Mozilla might have a solution to its cookie problem where its previous patch was delivering too many false negatives and false positives. It's still in early testing, but Mozilla will be holding a "brown bag" event on July 2 to provide an update on the future of its third-party cookie policy. Advertisers will no doubt be very interested in what Mozilla has to say as it sounds like Mozilla has found a way to make advertisers relatively happy while respecting the privacy of its users.

    [h/t: Washington Post]

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