Commentary

IAB Asks Mozilla To Rethink 'Kangaroo Cookie Court'

A new privacy initiative by Mozilla and Stanford amounts to a “Kangaroo Cookie Court,” that will replace “the principle of consumer choice with an arrogant 'Mozilla knows best' system.”

So says Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. “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,” Rothenberg wrote today in a blog post.

Rothenberg's post comes in response to news that Mozilla joined forces with Stanford to launch the Cookie Clearinghouse -- a project aimed at helping browser manufacturers block third-party cookies, including those set by ad networks, without also accidentally blocking cookies set by publishers that consumers have relationships with.

The Cookie Clearinghouse, which is run out of Stanford and headed by privacy expert Aleecia McDonald, will develop standards to determine whether cookies should be considered as first parties or third parties.

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Mozilla -- and other browser developers -- will be able to draw on the Clearinghouse's work in configuring browsers. Mozilla previously said that an upcoming version of Firefox would block third-party cookies by default, but the company backed away from that plan after early testing showed glitches with the software. Mozilla's Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich explained that the first attempt at cookie-blocking software sometimes resulted in the unintentional blocking of cookies set by publishers.

The Cookie Clearinghouse could go a long way toward resolving that issue, by offering browsers lists of sites that it considers third parties.

The group's advisory board includes representatives from the browser developers Mozilla and Opera. Other members include computer scientist and privacy advocate Jonathan Mayer, computer science researcher Rob van Eijk, and Future of Privacy Forum Director Jules Polonetsky.

Rothenberg calls this group “self-interested academic elites,” and argues that the new clearinghouse is not “rational, trusted, or transparent.”

Safari has long blocked cookies set by ad networks, without drawing much criticism from the ad industry. But the prospect of Mozilla doing likewise has roiled the IAB. “The no. 2 browser-maker seems hell-bent on implementing on a tight deadline cookie-blocking by fiat,” Rothenberg stated in his blog post.

Rothenberg argues that blocking ad networks' cookies will make it “punishingly difficult for advertisers to reach highly engaged audience segments through small publishers dependent on this third-party-cookie supply chain.”

The upshot, he says, is that marketers will “concentrate their ad buys among a tiny handful of giant Internet companies that dominate the deployment of first-party cookies.”

4 comments about "IAB Asks Mozilla To Rethink 'Kangaroo Cookie Court'".
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  1. Louis Moynihan from Demandbase, June 25, 2013 at 7:11 p.m.


    I understand larger publishers will get bigger media budgets especially for cookie retargeting, but there are a few additional variables that also need to be considered before saying Mozilla will offer an unfair advantage to the bigger Publishers:
    1. There is good data and bad data, and unfortunately much of the bad data currently resides on the 3rd party side of the fence. We see more attributes and characteristics in our first party data than we do with 3rd party data, the imperfections are more visible and therefore we slice the data better and use it in an appropriate time span. Bad data occurs everywhere, we just have more control over it when it is our own data
    2. Third party data vendors will not be out of business they will just need to offer data services to the larger publishers and advertisers. Consolidation is badly needed in the space anyway, if this doesn’t force the issue some other Darwinian event will
    3. Ad networks are adding more tools and data services, this model seems to be in a constant state of transition, I’m confident 3rd party cookies won’t kill this resilient group. However, I will say SSP, Exchange, Ad Network players will also see heightened competition and allowing brands to leverage/understand their own 1st party data will be crucial to their success

    Yes it might be painful at first, yes it will force innovation, but it is not the end of the world as we know it.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, June 26, 2013 at 10:09 a.m.

    Television set manufacturers *DO* decide which shows make it to your home. For example, I can't receive Sky on the TV in my kitchen because it's blocked by the "protection" built-into HDMI, and I can't get youtube on any TV because they don't have full Internet support. So this is a signally bad example. Why is Mozilla 'arrogant' and TV makers not, when both make decisions on what to support?

  3. Mark Mclaughlin from McLaughlin Strategy, June 26, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.

    I am about as pro-advertising as you can get. But, I don't understand why Mozilla is not free to design its browser any way that it wants to. No consumer is forced to use Mozilla and no small website with a tiny audience is guaranteed ad revenues so where, exactly, is Mozilla stepping out of line.

    Normally, I agree with Randall 100% but the analogy to a TV manufacturer that decides what shows you can watch is silly. A TV manufacturer who decides how to include commercial avoidance technology into its software and who makes it easy to block TV channels you don't want to see is well within its rights to create any product it wants.

  4. Shawn Riegsecker from Centro, LLC, June 26, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.

    I’m going to disagree with Randall on this, although I respect where he is coming from.

    The reason I am more in favor of Mozilla’s approach is that third-party cookies have distorted and deteriorated the relationship between the advertiser and consumer and also disintermediated the brand and the publisher. There is a propagation of companies who profit largely by exploiting the publisher’s relationship with its audience and the publisher's data. Yet what is the true advantage (cost or otherwise) for the advertiser to rely on third-party data?

    If we wake up tomorrow and third-party cookies had just disappeared, what would we do? It would drive the industry to build technology that maximizes the power of first-party data versus relying on a blunt and obtuse tool such as the 3rd-party cookie. There will be a rightful shift in power to agency trading desks that effectively utilize their first-party advertiser data with a publisher’s audience. Tech vendors could bring even more value to this. Further, brands would seek better ways to integrate message into consumers’ experience with publisher content. We’d search for a better canvas for creative, including larger formats and then invest more in dynamic, real-time and interactive content within the units to provide real value to consumers. We, as an industry, would spend more of our time innovating and being creative versus cookie-bombing audiences.

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