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Firefox May Shut Down Third Party Cookies

Mozilla privacy policy volunteer changes what Firefox does with cookies

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Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford graduate student who volunteers his time to work on tracking policy for Mozilla (the maker of the Firefox web browser), has threatened to bring an end to third party ad tracking within the browser.

These cookies have many uses but one of the most common is tailoring ad experience for each user. For example, locating where you live or what you like from sites you visited and search history.

No cookie for you.

Currently, Apple's Safari blocks cookies; Microsoft's Internet Explorer 10 does not actually block tracking; and Google's Chrome comes with tracking on by default. This leaves almost all major web browsers with a default anti-tracking position.

Jonathan has brought the fury of advertisers upon him, as many were in the midst of negotiations for an industry-wide standard on tracking cookies when the change occurred.

Mayer believes that he is in the right and those advertisers have no defense to justify an invasion of privacy merely to sell you something. Unfortunately for him, advertisers are planning to justify their moot multi-year negotiations by reaching out to Congress on the legality of the actions.

In one of his many interviews, Mayer states his beliefs explicitly:

The leverage used to be on the advertising industry’s side, but it has become clear by virtue of the technologies at the browsers’ disposal that the leverage is now on the consumer’s side.

The advertising side would be expected to reevaluate their hardline “We’re not going to negotiate” stance and rethink their strategy. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened. So I’m not too optimistic on negotiated terms for Do Not Track, but I’m increasingly optimistic that by virtue of the browsers’ efforts, consumers will get the choices they want. 

Whether these actions will stick in the long term, or government interference will nullify it, these actions are a double edged sword. While they have the consumers' best interests at heart, it leaves a simple and recognizable technology on the sidelines. This could leave our data much more vulnerable in the long term if we are not careful.

Originally Published Jun. 21st 2013

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