Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, publicly called on the company to retreat, arguing that it shouldn't try to implement “economic and cultural policies.”
Today, Mozilla's Harvey Anderson fired back, arguing that the company has the right to configure Firefox in a way that prevents ad networks (and anyone else) from setting tracking cookies on users' machines. “There's no constitutional right that allows people to modify my computer,” said Anderson, senior vice president for business and legal affairs at Mozilla.
Speaking at a discussion about third-party cookies, Anderson added that Mozilla doesn't want to launch an “attack on any particular segment of the Web,” but intends to create “the Web that people expect.”
The remarks came two weeks after 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 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.
McDonald said today that even if browsers block third-party cookies, companies can still serve online ads that don't rely on data collected across more than one site. “Advertising's not going away,” she said in response to a question about how publishers will be able to monetize sites. But, she added, certain online ad models might need to be revamped. “The idea of surveillance sales is probably going to have to be replaced by the idea of permission marketing,” she said
Of course, even if Firefox starts blocking ad networks' cookies by default, companies might decide to use different tracking methods. Mozilla's chief technology officer Brendan Eich acknowledged that possibility today. “It's very hard to prevent tracking,” he said. “We can do better. We shouldn't give up. But ... if you say, 'Let's get rid of cookies,' that mole is going to pop up from a different hole -- and there's lots of moles, and lots of holes.”