Hot on the heels of internet giant Mozilla Firefox’s announcement to block all third-party cookies by default, more than 500 fearful online businesses have signed a petition against the move.
Although the petition was created by the US Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), the UK IAB team are drumming up support by urging more small business and organisations to sign up - in an attempt to thwart the browser’s plans.
The IAB says by blocking third party cookies by default (in Firefox’s forthcoming update expected in June), this would significantly undermine the openness of the ad-funded internet and that digital advertising – enabled by third party cookies and other technologies, helps to fund content, services and applications that consumers enjoy for little or no cost.
Concerns Over Web Tracking
However, bosses at Firefox say the company has a responsibility to advance features and controls that bring users’ expectations in line with how the web functions for them. The company also stresses that its users frequently express concerns about web tracking.
Mozilla’s privacy and public policy guru Alex Fowler, conducted an experiment by comparing the current Firefox default; which allows all cookies, to that of the proposed new default; which only allows cookies from visited domains.
After visiting four websites via the current browser route, he was tracked by a total of 385 third and first party cookies, but when he went to the same sites, but based on the proposed default, he picked up only 75 first-party cookies.
Damage to Businesses & Possible Closures
Director of regulatory affairs at IAB UK, Nick Stringer, said the IAB across the world, believes that Mozilla’s actions will hurt small businesses that rely on ad revenue to support, drive and develop their activities.
He said despite the petition gathering pace, with support from companies throughout the US, Europe, Asia, Australia and beyond, more support is still needed.
“These small businesses make the internet the diverse place that it is today. This move would also undermine the efforts and resources that many ad businesses have made to enhance transparency and consumer control over advertising,” Stringer said.
He said the only way this issue will go away is if Mozilla decides not to implement the change. He also stressed that if the plan to block third-party cookies goes ahead, this could result in the closure of thousands of ad-supported businesses.
Option to Enable
Mozilla’s chief technology officer, Brendan Eich, explained that as with all new Firefox features, there will be months of evaluating input from its users and the community before the new policy enters the general release version of Firefox. It then stays in its ‘testing builds’ until the company is satisfied with the user experience.
“Mozilla is not the first to propose this feature in a web browser. For years, Apple's Safari browser has only accepted cookies from the websites users visit, which is the exact feature Mozilla is now testing,” Eich said.
“Firefox users will always have the option of enabling third-party cookies if they prefer that experience."