Mozilla: Ad Networks Have No 'Constitutional Right' To Set Cookies

Mozilla recently drew the ire of the online ad industry by announcing plans to move forward with a project to block third-party cookies in the Firefox browser.

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.”

3 comments about "Mozilla: Ad Networks Have No 'Constitutional Right' To Set Cookies".
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  1. Grant Bergman from •, July 2, 2013 at 6:27 p.m.

    How is this different from the preference I have checked in Safari to "Block cookies: From third parties and advertisers?"

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, July 3, 2013 at 5:15 a.m.

    @Grant. It's the same thing. Mozilla are catching up with what Safari has been doing for several years. Somehow this makes them the Devil while almost nobody criticizes Apple. Unfortunately marketers gotta market, even in this rare case when total honesty would probably work better.

  3. Ben Stone from Kidkraft Toys, August 22, 2014 at 5:34 a.m.

    Mozilla has shown themselves to be so intensely bigoted that they will not allow their employees to have Freedom of Though or Speech. I cannot take back my contributions in the past but I can choose not to contribute in the future. Meanwhile, I can inform people around me about Mozzilla's bigotry so they can have the freedom of Though to ghoose their own path, something Mozilla would not allow their users to do if they had the power.

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