Mozilla's Cookie Policy Writer Slams Advertisers, Says They Refuse To Negotiate


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It was revealed in March that Mozilla would start to disable third-party cookies by default in its Firefox browser. The non-profit says it's only doing it to protect consumer privacy, but advertisers have hit back hard saying the policy will only hurt small businesses. Does the man behind Mozilla's anti-cookie policy care though? Nope.

In an interview with AdExchanger, Jonathan Mayer, privacy advocate and Mozilla's cookie policy maestro, says that the current Do Not Track negotiations forced his hand in writing the anti-cookie policy. Those negotiations, which were previously reported as being in danger of breaking down, see both sides not being able to agree on what Do Not Track means. Mayer indicates that it's worse than that as both sides are refusing to negotiate:

The advertising side would be expected to reevaluate their hardline “We’re not going to negotiate” stance and rethink their strategy. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. So I’m not too optimistic on negotiated terms for Do Not Track, but I’m increasingly optimistic that by virtue of the browsers’ efforts, consumers will get the choices they want. It looks like consumers will get some pretty good privacy in the near term. If the W3C’s process is unsuccessful in developing a consensus on what the standards are, companies could be in a difficult spot, but consumers may be okay because of the technical countermeasures that are starting to be drawn over browsers.

In other words, Mayer is saying that it's up to the browsers to give consumers the choice that privacy advocates are fighting for in the "Do Not Track" negotiations. Of course, that choice comes in the form of either "Do Not Track" being turned on by default in Internet Explorer 10, or Firefox outright blocking all third-party cookies. Advertisers don't take well to either of those scenarios, but are apparently unwilling to negotiate for more favorable terms.

What would happen if the advertisers were to give in then? What system would Mayer want put into place? He's still all for third-party cookies being blocked as the default option, but he also calls upon advertisers to prove to consumers that they're trustworthy:

Consumers don’t have a great handle on what’s going on in terms of how their data is being collected and what it is being used for. Therefore it makes sense to shift the burden of explaining to the user what is going on to those who are in the best position to do it. Advertising companies have an incentive to convince users that they’re trustworthy and that users should allow them to collect data.

By setting those default settings to Do Not Track, we give interested parties the incentive to educate consumers about the impacts of those choices. We allocate to them [those parties] the responsibility of getting consumers to give them access.

It's unlikely that the advertising lobby will give in though. Some even fear that Web sites will begin blocking browsers that block cookies. Some sites already block browsers with AdBlock software installed so it's not much of a stretch to see some advertisers going the extra mile.

It would be truly unfortunate if it were to reach that point. As always, advertisers have a right to the Internet just as much as anybody else does, but they should be held to a consumer friendly standard. Maybe it's time they started paying more attention to the "acceptable ad" idea.

[h/t: Business Insider]