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Today’s Burning Question: Firefox to Block Third-Party Cookies By Default

Written on
Dec 30, 2013 
Author
Mike Daly  |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article, originally published on February 26, 2013, placed at No. 7 in our 20 most popular articles of the year.

ADOTAS – Today, we asked our panel of industry experts: “What will be the implications of Mozilla’s intention to block third-party cookies by default in Firefox 22?” Here’s how they responded:



“Blocking third-party cookies by default, without discretion, is the equivalent of using a sledgehammer when a ball-peen hammer would suffice. Privacy has been, and will continue to be, a major focus for the entire advertising industry, and while some third-party cookies clearly overstep the lines of acceptable use the fact remains that cookies are an integral and viable technology that help enable the economics of the ad-supported web. Publishers and ad networks, analytics vendors and advertisers all need to continue efforts to rally around responsible, user-controlled tracking and explain the role cookies play while combating the FUD and misinformation.” – Adometry CEO Paul Pellman.

“The absence of third-party cookies defines the day-to-day reality of mobile advertising and is one of the important differences between online and mobile that is often understated. This issue is at the center of why mobile native approaches are winning in the market. Publishers, buyers and advertisers need the capability to leverage data without the dependency on third-party cookies, and do so in a predictable way that is relatively invulnerable to the individual decisions that companies make.” — Victor Milligan, CMO of Nexage.

“Mozilla’s announcement reinforces the risk in relying on cookies alone to value the impact of attention-based advertising, such as display and Facebook. In addition to challenges posed by browsers (among others), cookies fall apart when it comes to tracking across multiple devices. The good news is that there are now ways to use cross-channel modeling to calculate the true value of digital advertising impressions, independent of a specific tracking mechanism such as cookies. In addition to overcoming cookie-inherent limitations, a Value Per Impression (VPI) approach provides advertisers insight into the full-funnel value of their impressions, including the perennially important – but often elusive – brand effect.”  – Rob Cooley, CTO, OptiMine Software.

“These moves by Apple and Mozilla are, in fact, good news for an industry that cares about the future of advertising. Quality ads and respect for privacy are the fundamental elements that the advertising industry was built upon and Apple and Mozilla are simply doing what they need to do to protect their consumer relationships. We should be touting their efforts to improve to the entire market as they deal with an issue that’s been brewing for some time. With cookies diminishing, we need to look for alternatives. What the industry lacks is a universal solution, with privacy at its core, that functions across all devices, operating systems and use cases at scale. With a solution like this in play, big brands like Mozilla and Apple would be able to service a respectful and enhancing experience to its audiences through advertising without concern.” James Lamberti, Vice President and General Manager, AdTruth.

“Firefox’s decision to block third-party cookies could impact more than just online advertising. Other services and website plugins might suffer due to this default restriction, which could potentially limit a user’s interaction on a site as well as its usefulness. In the ad space, this could disrupt the ability for advertisers to reach their intended audience, and Firefox users would see less relevant ads. This could actually cause an increase the amount of ads per page, because by devaluing an individual ad and its relevance for a particular user, advertisers would be forced to take a less granular and less targeted approach.” — Nathan Thomas, CTO, Sonobi Media.

“Mozilla’s move to block third-party cookies by default in Firefox 22 is yet another continuing saga of the emergence of online marketing and reactions to it.  It will initially stifle competition and innovation, but over time will have less than the stated affect that many believe it will have.  It will also lead to even greater popularity of Google Chrome and IE who built its browser in part to help combat approaches like the ones taken by Mozilla.”  – – David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision, LLC.

“This seems to heavily favor large publishers and ad networks like Google and Facebook since they already have first-party relationships in most cases with the consumers.  With Facebook already allowing utilization of their data across display inventory on third-party sites this anti-competitive implementation by Mozilla will only further raise the barriers to entry and innovation for new ad companies.  The likelihood of enhanced consumer privacy as a result is to be determined, but the functionality isn’t too dissimilar to the existing do-not-track one.  I guess the hope is that consumers will understand the difference between first and third parties better than they understand how to check a box in their browser settings…” — Ryan Wilson, CEO, FiveFifty Digital Marketing.

“This announcement comes at a time when advertisers are seeing huge gains from display and retargeting solutions up and down the sales funnel. At the same time, many consumers are also seeing the value of these solutions in terms of getting visibility to the products and brands they like most.  So I think we’ll see a lot more debate, discussion and awareness among brands and shoppers around the issue leading up to the release of this Firefox patch. For the affiliate marketing industry the answer is not quite as clear.  Depending on how the affiliate marketing network in question implements tracking, a third party cookie may or may not be dropped. For Rakuten LinkShare this will not impact our affiliate marketing business because our tracking does not rely on third party cookies.”  – Scott Allan, SVP, Global Marketing, Rakuten LinkShare.

“What’s most interesting about the proposed Firefox patch is that it allows for first-party cookies.  Assuming the patch does make it into a production release, Google and Facebook will be unaffected. In fact, Google and Facebook will have their positions strengthened since just about everyone they want to cookie is already visiting their sites and thus able to receive first-party cookies.  Ad tech players without destination sites — i.e. just about all of them — will face a decision on whether to shift to a first-party cookie serving model or to pursue cookie-less tracking models of the kind already being used by ad tech companies in the EU.  Either way, what WON’T happen is a shift away from behavioral targeting — because it works, and because advertisers know that it works.” — Brad Florapresident/co-founder, Perfect Audience.

“This stands to increase the share of display media with limited capability for cookie-based targeting from 10% today (Safari) to 30%. The greatest impact will be the use of third-party data, thus this may serve to put a renewed importance on publisher first-party data and solutions built around activating its usage. Ultimately this will hurt as today platforms have limited options when supporting basic functions like frequency capping on a Safari browser and presumably the same issues will now be faced by Firefox users. The greater concern however is with two of the four major browsers going in this direction, will this set a precedent that the other two might follow?” – Andrew Casale, VP Strategy at Casale Media.

“I think it will go down as something that causes outrage amongst advertisers now, but once it’s implemented the issue will start to die out. Safari has been operating under this model for quite some time, but the difference is that Firefox and Chrome have a substantially higher user share than Safari, so it’s never really been a market issue. One thing, based on my research and understanding, is that the option to block third party cookies has always been in place in Firefox, but it’s been up to the user to make that selection in their Privacy Settings. This change will just have that setting be off by default.” – Ian Smith, Director, Engagement Marketing, mOcean.

“In the marketplace, consumers have relationships with brands and their content and services (first-party relationships using first-party technology). This relationship is clearly based on trust that has been developed between the two parties and a clear and transparent give and take transaction. An example of this is that consumers trust Amazon and know that Amazon has a lot of data about their preferences and purchase patterns. Amazon as a result has permission to serve relevant offers and product recommendations based on this data. (In fact, research shows that consumers like advertisers with whom they have a relationship and find them more relevant)

“Contrarily, in more and more transactions on the Internet, there are intermediary advertising solutions where there is significant ambiguity with regard to data practices and whether there is adequate notice, choice and consent as to how consumer’s data is being managed and proliferated. The fact that consumers do not have relationships in any form with these companies causes concern for consumers around their data and privacy.

“There have been two constituents that have started to give more and more protection to consumers in the second instance above by not accepting or by deleting third-party cookies. These were firstly the Internet Security providers who, with their desktop anti-virus and Internet security software, started to delete third-party cookies on an ever more frequent basis. Secondly, the browser companies stopped accepting third-party cookies altogether. First came Apple’s Safari browser, then Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser with their “Do No Track” Initiative and now Mozilla’s Firefox v22 launching in June 2013. This ever increasing trend will make third-party ads less relevant and make firs- party technology transactions more attractive to web site owners and advertisers as well as serve ads that are more relevant to consumers. First-party technologies remove intermediaries from the three legged stool equation and return a clear relationship between brand and consumer.

“The ad industry’s defense to the third-party cookie tracking has always been that they need to track to make ads more relevant, but recent research from Nielsen disputes this and shows that TV advertising is more relevant than digital even with this tracking capability.” – Tim Mayer, CMO of TruEffect.

“The hand-wringing among advertisers who depend on cookies to find an audience is completely understandable.  However, cookies and direct site buys are not the only ways to find an audience and if Do Not Track takes greater hold the industry will more quickly adopt other, better ways to target.  There is nothing intrinsically valuable about entrenched infrastructure; the crying you hear is the pain of adapting.  But, like heroin addicts, they’ll be better off after the withdrawal subsides.” – Matt Rosenberg VP of Marketing, Taykey.





Mike Daly is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years of experience in publishing. He began his career in 1983 at The News of Paterson, N.J., a long-since defunct daily paper, where at age 22 he was promoted to the position of Editorial Page Editor. Since then he has served in managerial capacities with several news organizations, including Arts Weekly Inc. and North Jersey Media Group in New Jersey and Examiner Media in New York. His work has been honored on numerous occasions by the New Jersey Press Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.

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