Is Mozilla anti-business, led by 'techno-libertarians'?

Is Mozilla anti-business, led by 'techno-libertarians'?

Summary: In a long, somewhat rambling blog post, IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg questioned whether Mozilla has lost its values about third party cookies.


The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) blasted Mozilla over its third party cookie blocking plans and said that the non-profit organization has an anti-business bent.

In a long, somewhat rambling blog post, IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg questioned whether Mozilla has lost its values about third party cookies. Mozilla has been in the front of the cookie debate and teamed with Stanford to create a clearinghouse to track the digital footprints used to track you.

Public good or anti-business?

Mozilla planned to launch cookie blocking technology in Firefox, backed off and then wanted input from advertising, media and ad tech companies.

The IAB now argues that Mozilla's plans are worse than before. According to the IAB:

A review of Mozilla’s latest scheme for blocking third party cookies shows it to be worse than its earlier proposals. While Mozilla executives say they are taking in criticism from multiple stakeholders, the company’s own statements and explanations indicate that Mozilla is making extreme value judgments with extraordinary impact on the digital supply chain, securing for itself a significant gatekeeper position in which it and its handpicked minions will be able to determine which voices gain distribution and which do not on the Internet.

The IAB argues that cookies are part of the advertising and media supply chain and that its clearinghouse plans will result in too many false positives on its block list.

However, the main crux is that Mozilla is anti-business and led by radicals. Here's a choice quote:

But at least as telling as the presence of anti-business radicals on Mozilla’s “cookie court” is who and what is absent. There are no publishers on it - the people whose livelihoods depend on the sale of digital advertising. There are no executives from ad networks - the companies that are almost solely responsible for helping small publishers earn any income. There are no executives from brand marketers, ad agencies, retailers, e-tailers, or ad technology companies - not a single representative from an ecosystem responsible for creating 5.1 million jobs in and contributing $530 billion annually to the U.S. economy.


Perhaps worse is the organization’s blindness to its own potential, as it evolves inside a cocoon spun by techno-libertarians and academic elites who believe in liberty and freedom for all, as long as they get to decide the definitions of liberty and freedom. By dealing exclusively with the issue of controls around cookies, Mozilla is missing a great opportunity to talk about the options for identity management and safety in a larger scope. A solution that empowers consumer choice in both the mobile OS and desktop browser spaces would bring significantly more value to all involved parties, and allow Mozilla to promote thought leadership with its nascent Mobile OS.

The IAB could have a few good points, but Rothenberg's long post comes off as a diatribe that's unlikely to spur a whole lot of dialogue. Rothenberg's point that not all cookies are bad is well taken, but his diatribe is unlikely to elevate the conversation around privacy, cookies and commerce.

Topics: Privacy, Tech Industry

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  • What he's going to have to do... to communicate the benefits of saving whatever cookies websites want to put on people's machines to users. What Mozilla and other browser developers are doing is in response to what their users want, and most users, to the extent they understand cookies, don't like them.

    Personally, I use Self Destructing Cookies, which I'm quite sure Mr. Rothenberg considers to be an abomination; but he doesn't own any of the computers I use, and neither does the IAB.
    John L. Ries
    • Well put

      IBA has one interest, advertising revenue made easy by cookie tracking. The IBA has forgotten that we own our computing devices (at least for now) and we have a say in what they do with information about us. Mozilla has always been responsive to it's community of users and developers and should not have to answer to the IBA for that.

      BTW - I like chocolate chip cookies ;)
    • It's my computer and I'll delete cookies if I want to

      @John L. Ries: "Personally, I use Self Destructing Cookies, which I'm quite sure Mr. Rothenberg considers to be an abomination; but he doesn't own any of the computers I use, and neither does the IAB."

      Playing Devil's Advocate...

      Rothenberg would probably argue that you agreed to store his cookies when you consumed content from an ad-supported web site. If you don't like that deal, don't visit the site. Taking the content but refusing to "pay" for it is not an ethical choice.

      At the micro level, "I own the computer and can store, or not store, whatever I want" is completely reasonable.

      At the macro level, if everybody refuses to store cookies, online advertising won't be as profitable, and some number of ad-supported sites will cease to exist.

      I think this is a real dilemma, and I don't know the answer. In the mean time, while searching for the answer, I will continue to run AdBlock and NoScript on my computer. :-)
      • You can advertise without tracking

        TV, radio, and newspaper advertisers have done it for many decades.
        John L. Ries
        • Nope

          Actually, they haven't. TV channels, radio stations and newspapers all go to considerable lengths to try and profile their audience; doing so allows them to sell advertising slots at higher prices.
          • And all of it...

   dependent on the voluntary cooperation of users.

            Frankly, no ratings agency has ever contacted me and if they did, I would have every right to say "no".
            John L. Ries
    • Agreed

      I understand that webpages do not pay for themselves, but it is still possible to generate advertising revenue on webpages without tracking my activities, so I am not worried about websites disappearing if we don't allow cookies. Where I have some sympathy for the use of cookies is that small businesses in particular can benefit from the reduced cost of advertising to a geared audience instead of speculatively purchasing advertisement on various sites. However I will continue to feel no moral qualms about deleting cookies that are saved on MY hardware without my permission, with little or no oversight being given to the public over their use. And, yes, these cookies are being used by major corporations as well as small businesses, and those major corporations push aside the small advertisers where they see profit in doing so, so my conscience is clear.
    • All browsers should default to no third party cookie

      and dnt. The advertising world works perfectly fine with general demographics. There's no need for advertisers or site owners to know what other sites you go to, what time of day you do, how frequently, etc. None. Anything more should always require opt in.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Here here!

      The IAB wants to grandstand on it's collective soapbox and say that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with wanting to protect it's ability to keep alive it's ability to create revenue. Fine. But, do I look like Mary Kay or a Girl Scout? I'm not going to their door trying to sell them sh@t they don't want so maybe they can cut the general public at large a break and stop trying to shove their nonsense down our throats. If I want to buy your product, I'll come knocking on their door on my own volition.
  • So, what is Rothenberg's and by inference the IAB's definition

    of "liberty and freedom for all"? Perhaps the old definition of liberty and freedom ends when you encroach on another persons liberty and freedom should be re-examined. Same bunch
    that raked Microsoft over the coals for "Do Not Track" in Internet Explorer appears to have
    other browsers in their sights.
  • I am still confused by all of this ...

    I'm a 25-year technology professional, and I still don't get it. Why is there a debate regarding these kind of things? If I don't want to be tracked, I should have the ability to not be tracked. If I don't want to be profiled, then I should have the ability to eliminate profiling.

    If I'm using free or OS software, then I have to put up with the constraints that it puts on me. If those constraints are too erroneous for me to deal with then I am forced to play "the game" with some other product service.

    I've followed the IAB very closely in the past year, and simply can't understand the whining that's going on. If there was anti-trust issues then that's another thing all together. But, as I see it, it's an organization that is wanting something for nothing, or an organization that is demanding equal treatment without equal investment.

    Again: I'm a seasoned professional and I follow these kind of discussions very closely. I still don't get it. Am I just being dense?
  • Mozilla not anti-business; anti-corporate fascism!

    No, Mozilla is not anti-business, but they are anti-mega-corporation who create monopolies! Good for them! All the megacorps are in bed together with the NSA surveillance grid, and the general public (not CEO's!) are waking up! The mega-corps in bed with Big Government are the classic definition of fascism. We should all be anti-corporate/fascists, but money talks! See the global uprisings all across the globe. Go Mozilla!
  • Hello, NSA!

    And we should add full spectrum surveillance! NSA = GOOGLE = MICROSOFT = YAHOO and so and so forth. People have had enough of the 4th Reich!
    Hello, NSA!
  • Of course Mozilla is Anti-Big-Business...

    ... and that's why I like them.

    You want to track me, use YOUR damn computers to do it, ya cheap, lazy bums. You can afford it.

    cookies are for the bitmonster.
  • Ohhhhhhh.....Al I can say is

    tough cookies for the IAB........... :)
  • "techno-libertarians"?

    I'm no libertarian, but I don't think anyone is advocating governmental intervention here. Certainly there is no law preventing computer owners from deciding what data they store on their own equipment (unless, of course, the data themselves are illegal) and I don't know of anyone who claims there should be.
    John L. Ries
  • pay

    To business if you want to use us then pay us and quit freeloading!!
  • Isn't the solution really simple?

    Not everyone is going to want to block tracking cookies, but those that do have that right. If Mozilla offers cookie-blocking, but doesn't turn it on by default, then those that want to block cookies will have that option.

    Mr. Rothenberg's blathering diatribe against Mozilla's belief "in liberty and freedom for all, as long as they get to decide the definitions of liberty and freedom" is really hypocritical, considering that he is complaining that the advertising industry won't make money.

    Isn't that really the choice of the market, to support or not support advertisers?

    Realistically, if the ad-sponsored websites and the 5.1 million jobs related to advertising aren't supported by the free will of the market through cookie-tracking, then they'll just have to find another way. It's much more a restriction on freedom to demand that we be subjected to their advertising methods against our will or without our knowledge.

    Besides, how many of the 5.1 million jobs will really be lost if Mozilla implemented their plan? Probably a couple dozen or maybe even a few thousand at most? Ads would still appear and ad revenue will still be generated. They just won't be able to tell what some people's interests are and will have to shift their methods. Boo hoo.

    My right to privacy trumps the right of all 5.1 million of those advertiser-supported jobs to track me, period.
  • How about making it not crash?

    I'm less worried about their business philosophy, than when they'll make a browser that doesn't crash randomly.
    • Try a Reset

      I'm actually running the pre-release version (which should be *less* stable) and it's quite solid.
      An older profile can contribute to instability and other issues. You might consider doing a Reset - which imports your data into a fresh new profile. You'll need to reinstall your addons, but I think it's well worth it in most cases.
      How to do it (a simple button press) and what data is kept and not kept is listed on this page: