Mozilla's "Do Not Track" browser stirs up concern from advertisers

By on June 23, 2013, 9:30 AM

Online businesses often rely on advertising to bring in revenue. Unfortunately, when tracking the activity of users in an effort to drive targeted ads, the line between innocent observation and privacy violation begins to blur. The use of third-party cookies is one of the easiest ways for a company to learn more about prospective customers; something that Mozilla plans to tackle in an upcoming version of the Firefox browser.

Mozilla first announced the “Do Not Track” feature back in February, but later said that it had to undergo further testing. Despite the ongoing hiatus, the company continues to face backlash from the advertising community, with many claiming that this will have a negative impact on the entire online network. Mike Zaneis, general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, called the new browser a “nuclear first strike” against advertisers.

It’s important to note that Mozilla does not intend to block all cookies, just those that are deemed undesirable. After all, cookies can be beneficial and serve purposes such as remembering settings for sites that we frequently visit. The company has been working alongside the Center for Internet and Society (CIS) at Stanford to develop the list of websites whose data gathering priveleges will be axed; an initiative being called the “Cookie Clearinghouse”.

Aleecia McDonald, director of privacy at CIS, added, “The Cookie Clearinghouse will create, maintain and publish objective information. Web browser companies will be able to choose to adopt the lists we publish to provide new privacy options to their users.”

In response to the statement, advertisers argue that numerous online businesses, many of which are small web establishments, will cease to function if cookie-blocking browsers become the standard. However, this already seems to be the case; Apple's Safari browser carries a similar privacy feature, while Microsoft's IE10 has made the "Do Not Track" technology its default setting.  “It’s troubling,” added Lou Mastria, the managing director for the Digital Advertising Alliance. "They're putting this under the cloak of privacy, but it's disrupting a business model."

What are your thoughts on Mozilla’s new feature? Do cookie-blocking browsers pose a threat to the sustainability of the internet, or are ad agencies just trying to protect their own livelihood?

User Comments: 33

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1 person liked this | GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

Well I was tired of advertisements knowing where I was lol. Though personally I don't use Firefox anyway, except when I have to.

JC713 JC713 said:

Ad agencies are trying to protect their livelihood. Mozilla is open source. Why would someone attack a non-profit company? That is the sad part.

4 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Give me the names of these Advertisers. After I follow them around for a while, lets see how concerned they are with my abilities to stalk them.

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

Also, why are they attacking Mozilla, when there are tons of extensions on the internet that block ads/tracking, like Adblock, Disconnect, etc. Why not go after them? Why Mozilla?

7 people like this | Guest said:

A lot of whining for companies that are essentially collecting vast amounts of data about us without our knowledge. Then they make profit off of that data by selling it to advertisers. Behind the scenes these folks are straight up making money off activities we do that have nothing to do with them or their business models. I for one have no sympathy for these people. If they need to collect this kind of information about us to support their business model... their business model is based on some pretty deceitful practices to begin with. They should have to pay us for our information instead of secretly collecting it in the background. We should not be part of unwilling and unwittingly helping companies jam their stupid products down our throats.

Guest said:

I think it's great. Preemptive nuclear strike against the evil capitalists works form me. Now, if we could only make a law against electronic panhandling we'd have it made.

1 person liked this | davislane1 davislane1 said:

As someone else pointed out, I'm surprised they aren't targeting some of the extension/plugin providers out there. Although I understand the difficulty of smaller online retailers to get traffic in an environment dominated by the likes of Amazon and other big name online stores, getting your ads nixed by browsers and browser plugins is a part of the risk associated with doing business online. You have to adapt or go out of business.

1 person liked this | Puiu Puiu said:

Why attack mozilla? they will have the best implementation of this feature that should not disrupt businesses that work legally.

Guest said:

You all do realize that ANY free service isn't actually free to the one providing the service right? here you are posting and browsing techspot.... do you believe even techspot is free to operate/host/maintain/insure/license? How do you think things work? I swear all you kids have NO clue about the real world and how things cost money. Ads PAY for the very things you use for free each and every day. Grab a brain.

4 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

You all do realize that ANY free service isn't actually free to the one providing the service right? <snip> Grab a brain.
You do realize placing ads on a website and violating everyones privacy, is two completely different things.

I think it is you, who needs to "Grab a brain"!

1 person liked this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I'm sure advertisers are an evil necessity otherwise we may have to pay for every site we visit but who gives a damn about or even notices the advertisement. I use Chromes built in anti tracker as well as Do Not Track Me, Ad Block and run CCleaner after every browsing session.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Do not worry as long as you use Chrome you're safe, this feature will never be implemented there, so be happy and use Choooome ;)

1 person liked this | psycros psycros said:

"In response to the statement, advertisers argue that numerous online businesses, many of which are small web establishments, will cease to function if cookie-blocking browsers become the standard."

Laughable. Small online businesses rarely employ tracking cookies. What actually happens: the site owner allows Google and other ad networks to spy on the site's customers, and the site owner gets kickbacks. If your business is that dependent upon selling out your customers to highest bidder, you deserve to go under. And you will not be missed.

ravy said:

I might start using Firefox when they'll release the update.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

So basically what the advertisers are saying is that we have the inalienable right, to have our nose up the collective a** of everyone who visits our site, even if it's by accident, even if we had a lousy price, or didn't even have the product, we still have the right to track them.

FF's "do not track & privacy mode" is absolutely ruthless. It won't even try to remember a window the user himself just closed. And that's big thumbs up....(y)

avoidz avoidz said:

Something like this that puts some control back in the hands of users and consumers is a very good thing in my opinion.

1 person liked this | captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Oh heck, I use Firefox in the privacy mode, 3rd party cookies turned off, do not track turned on, "NoScript running, and "Surf Anonymous Free", as my proxy.

Sometimes even I don't know where the **** I am on the web.

1 person liked this | FLWrd said:

I liked the inclusion of the final quote: "They're putting this under the cloak of privacy, but it's disrupting a business model." That's a pretty cynical one, relying on the general admiration for entrepreneurs to get a wild card to do whatever they like. It is of course the other way around: "They're putting this under the cloak of a business model, but it's disrupting privacy."

Guest said:

"Do cookie-blocking browsers pose a threat to the sustainability of the internet?"

When I joined the internet way back when it was just email, chatrooms, kazaa.

There was no corporate take over from businesses. But then they moved in backed by the MPAA RIAA and all there ways to track you, find out what you are up to, to control you with advertising.

Many bad things came with these ******.

Was / IS the internet not a place designed to share information and knowledge more freely?

Which in my mind is things like wikipedia. Sites which can help one learn something new and inform.

The internet is full of ads that you speak of, and they are just annoying. I dont look at ads and think oh I must click away and buy things. I think theres an advertisement ruining my webpage. Taking up space, which would be better served filled with a nice blank space. I hate seeing Amazon and shops I do use showing up on every page.

I know what I want, when I want it, and when I decide to go to an online retailer I will, but adverts never help IMO. They just slow web browsers loading up.

The internet won't fall just because some shops dont make their money back on the crap advertising slots they pay 1p for only when the link is hit? There are many other reasons for the internet to exist other than shopping.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

]...[ ]...The internet won't fall just because some shops dont make their money back on the crap advertising slots they pay 1p for only when the link is hit? There are many other reasons for the internet to exist other than shopping.
No, it certainly won't. I've surely been waiting for people to wise up a bit, and quit pissing their money up Google's wall.. But frankly, Google seems to have the best snake oil sales staff on the planet.

As "currency" becomes less and less valuable, it seems that every interest group, from frivolous luxury peddlers, to those who deal in the necessities.of life, believes they're entitled to every last penny of your "disposable income". Like there is actually such a thing as "disposable income".

I block every thing I possibly can, and browse pages over and over until I make MY decision. I haven't really ever been swayed by some random drive by ad either. So the pay per click peddlers must be wreaking havoc with their clients budgets when I'm at their site.

I do get a perverse but tiny bit of pleasure from getting sold onto mailing lists, and then throwing $5.00 glossy catalogs into the trash without ever looking at them. But know what, they'll only add those costs back in to any merchandise you eventually might happen to buy.

Quite bluntly, this has become as nation of lawyers, salesmen, lobbyists, and "consultants", all vile parasites that prey on a populace so lazy, so entitled, and so worthless, that all that gets done is a bunch of endless yapping, on some stinking overpriced cell phone.

OTOH, the money for search engines, infrastructure, even free storage for free email servers, has to come from somewhere. So, if the web isn't funded by the private sector, then the burden would fall to the government to build and fund in the sameway they funded the interstate highway system. And the money they've been printing recently, is just as worthless to them, as it is to us!

1 person liked this | Guest said:

A co-worker asked which browser I used at home.

Firefox I replied.

Now many add-ons?

About 30.

Your favorite?

Ad block plus.

You know that's how the sites make money.

I know.

Why use it then?

When the sites start paying a portion of my Internet bill for them using my bandwidth I'll quit using ad block.

Nuff said.

Guest said:

"Mike Zaneis, general counsel for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, called the new browser a "nuclear first strike" against advertisers."

Uhhh... Good?

I don't want to be inadvertently carrying data between every site I visit just so advertisers can advertise more. I'd much rather see a nuclear strike against all online advertisers and show them that just because it's easy to do it's not acceptable.

The way advertisers use cookies, it's the equivalent of following you from shop to shop, watching what you look at, then holding pictures up of something they sell that you might buy on it.

It's unacceptable and firefox have won me over by implementing this.

Guest said:

I don't like to be tracked so I use Ghostery & AdBlockPlus (the later allows some unintrusive ads to support some freeware sites) on my Chrome browser and I will continue to block tracking! Now why are they targeting Mozilla if I block trackers in Chrome too? I don't care what companies say I don't trust companies at all!

MilwaukeeMike said:

So Safari and IE have already been doing this, and now Firefox is on board. So that just leaves Chrome, which is run by the biggest ad seller in the world. Google...who's slogan ironically is 'Don't be Evil.'

All though as far as 'evil' things go I think this is pretty low on the list, but still... kinda funny.

Guest said:

I hate advertisements, especially when they install adware without a user's permission. In reality, the companies who do this should be prosecuted and it should be made against the law. What would happen if you decided to just go sit at a neighbor's house and watch their every move? No doubt you would probably be arrested or worse, or if you go around stalking people just to see what they do?

1 person liked this | Guest said:

The unfortunate fact is that many "businesses" think people's privacy doesn't count in terms of their "business model". They know no boundaries, and think nothing of using my personal, private, residential phone to interrupt my evening meal and try to sell me something I don't want. That's why I own and use an answering machine with which I can screen calls and decide who I'll talk to.

This following me around the web to collect data to feed "business models" is no different. It's an unwarranted invasion of my privacy, same as barging into my home using my telephone trying to sell something. These people use their "business models" as an excuse to violate my privacy, and I have the right to use every bit of technology I can find to prevent it from happening.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

When I need or want something, I will go and find it. Until this time I don't need these items plastered over every billboard and webpage. If I'm not in the market for it, I'm not in the market. And advertising anything that I will never be interested in, only serves to piss me off. Especially when the ads are pathetically obnoxious.

To be tracked on the Internet, serves only to hold people to their past travels. The biggest part of my travels around the Internet can be summed up by this quote, "been there, done that, now it's time to move on".

  • Sure go ahead and try to sell me hospital equipment, when all I was wanting to know was the expense of such equipment.
  • Sure go ahead and try to sell me a product from UK or Australia (Even though I'm a US resident), when all I was doing was helping a forum buddy with a question.
  • Sure go ahead and try selling server hardware, even though I would probably never be interested in anything server related.

Placing ads in irrelevant locations or basing them on user past Internet traffic, is not good for business. I will question any product that does not sale itself by word of mouth (aka: user feedback).

Guest said:

As with all things there really needs to be a "back to basics" - an open and free internet not locked by borders boundaries or political whim and certainly not beholden to any organization whether private, public or state with vested interests over and above the needs of the wider world - social media is a two edge sword that has to be able to swing both ways... for your political ambitions and also against them.

You want to read my data - as rightly said above "pay for my connection"

You want to read my data - apply in an open court and do not hide behind the political pretext of national security

You want to read my data - I can provide the details for the account to which payment should be sent....

Better still as FireFox is open source hows about some smart developer out there not only generating a plug-in for blocking all these adds (and call it First Strike!) but that also charges the ad provider back - I would happily click the button to further fund open source from 90% of the proceeds from such a device.

PinothyJ said:

Could they not have thought of a better name than ?Cookie Clearinghouse?? What about raisin cookies? Raisin cookies have no reason to exist.

Burn them...

Guest said:

They (the advertisers) are going after mozilla because they want to stop all the ad blocking and ad tracking programs. It will destroy their jobs. But, who will miss the leaches of society? No one. It's kind of the same as the 'do not call' registry targeted another group of pests, the telemarketers. Anybody miss being interupted during their dinner to answer the phone and get a line about buying aluminum siding? I think not.

1 person liked this | ICUB4UCME said:

To answer the recurring question of why they are targeting Firefox I would like to reference security expert Steve Gibson in his term "The Tyranny of the Default". this concept assumes that the default setting is true in 75% of systems. while extensions like adblock and disconnect are great and have been out for a long time and are even used by quite a lot of people in this forum we must keep in mind that this forum is much more tech savvy than the average user. the average user is not going to know to go get adblocking extensions nor are they going to know to turn on the Do Not Track setting that is off by default. turning it on by default makes a large majority of users drop off the advertisers radar which obviously makes them unhappy that they may actually have to work for a living.

I agree that they are parasites and will not be missed (at least by me). I also agree that a business that depends on subsidies of any kind should simply die. if the business model cannot support itself then I invoke the law of natural selection.

I am also not opposed to the idea of ads on websites, they are the same commercials on radio or television. however, targeted ads based on aggressive tracking practices confuse me to some small extent because of what happens when you bring them to the physical world. when you walk into a store and someone you do not know follows you into the store and trys to sell you something from another store it will make the shopkeeper furious. for some reason on the internet it is welcomed. I can only assume they care more about easy money than running a reputable business and I encourage anyone to shop less on sites that allow such practices and more on sites that host either no ads or regular ads that are relevent to the target audience of said site (e.g. techspot hosting advertisements for computer equipment on amazon regardless of your amazon history). simply put there is a big difference between knowing your audience and completely moving into their anus.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

^^^^ +100 for @ICUB4UCME

DAOWAce DAOWAce said:

Advertisers have no right to be worried; no one accepts their practices.

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