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Ad industry threatens Firefox users with more ads if Mozilla moves on tracking plans

Gregg Keizer | March 26, 2013
The online ad industry has attacked Mozilla over its decision to block third-party cookies in a future release of Firefox, calling the move "dangerous and highly disturbing," and claiming that it will result in more ads shown to users.

Jaffe claimed that of the 18.5 million visitors to DAA's AboutAds website, only 1 million have used it to opt out of tracking, citing the figures to back up his contention that Internet users are not interested in tracking, surveys notwithstanding.

"The Internet was created on the foundations of advertising," said Jaffe. "There are true privacy concerns of the public, they're serious concerns and should be respected. We are having that conversation with consumers. But Mozilla is cutting off that conversation."

Not every advertiser agrees.

Last Friday, the Online Publishers Association (OPA), a group whose members include major online media outlets like Disney, ESPN, IDG -- Computerworld's parent company -- NBC, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, pooh-poohed the ANA's and IAB's portents.

"In spite of the doom-saying, Mozilla's move to block third-party cookies in the newest version of Firefox does not spell disaster for the advertising and publishing businesses," the OPA said. "If anything, it sheds more light on the need for an ecosystem-wide solution."

The OPA's members, of course, would be little harmed by Firefox's third-party cookie blocking, as they are large enough to sell their own ad inventory, and have little or no need to go to the third-party ad networks whose tracking would be impacted.

Brookman made much the same call as the OPA in his February blog post. Noting that the ad industry had promised the Obama administration it would participate in self-regulation, but that tracking had in the meantime ballooned, Brookman had hopes that Mozilla's move would nudge advertisers to "reach accommodation on a reasonable opt-out regime for third-party tracking," preferably through the W3C.

But if the industry doesn't, it's fighting a battle it cannot win.

"Browsers have a direct relationship with the user," Brookman observed. "On the other hand, ad networks' relationship with the user is intermediated by those same browsers, as well as publishers who are also increasingly worried about user trust."

 

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