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.
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.”