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Firefox Holds Off On Automatically Blocking Third-Party Cookies

Mozilla has decided to hold off on a plan to automatically block third-party cookies by default in Firefox 22.

Brenden Eich, Mozilla’s CTO , wrote that,  “There are many conflicting claims about how this patch will affect the Internet. Why debate in theory what we can measure in practice? We are going to find out more and adjust course as needed.”

Eich says the idea is to allow cookies from sites you’ve already been to, but block cookies from sites you haven’t visited yet. The thought being that you probably haven’t heard of or have no relationship with a site you’ve yet to visit. But Eich admits there are problems, citing the example of a false positive: ” For example, say you visit a site named foo.com which embeds cookie-setting content from a site named foodcdn.com. With the patch, Firefox sets cookies from food.com because you visited it, yet blocks cookies from foocdn.com because you never visited foocdn.com directly, even though there is actually just one company behind both sites.”

Many advertisers expressed concern over blocking third-party cookies by default, with the Interactive Advertising Bureau accusing Mozilla of undermining American small business and consumers’ control of their privacy.

“Thousands of small businesses that make up the diversity of content and services online will be forced to close their doors,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, the trade association for the ad-supported digital media industry.”

In a press release, the IAB cited a study by Harvard Business School that showed that ad-supported Internet was responsible for over five million jobs in the U.S.

Rothenberg argued that small businesses can’t afford to make large buys across multiple websites and that the third-party cookie is what makes it possible for them to reach consumers and unfairly favors big businesses that can afford to make large advertising buys.

Mozilla says it is is listening to the feedback from concerned site owners, but remain committed to shipping a version of the patch that blocks third-party cookies by default to protect the privacy of Firefox users.

~ Cynthia