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OPLIN 4Cast #323: Cookies from the third party

Posted in 4cast

cookieYou may have seen some headlines last week about plans for the Firefox browser to start blocking “third-party” cookies. In a previous 4cast we’ve talked about “zombie” cookies, and now it seems there are also party cookies, some of which apparently need blocking. As it happens, Apple’s Safari browser has been blocking third-party cookies by default for over a decade, causing some companies (and even some Safari users) to search for workarounds. So what’s all the fuss about?

  • Firefox to follow Safari, start blocking cookies from third-party advertisers (The Verge/Jeff Blagdon) “A cookie is a digital identifier that allows a site to store information about you pseudonymously, like the contents of your online shopping cart. By setting cookies, a third-party ad network can track users’ browsing activity across all the sites on which it serves ads, forming the basis for what’s called Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA), or the selling of targeted ads to individual users.”
  • Ad networks beware: Firefox to block third-party cookies (Adweek/Katy Bachman) “In practice, both Google Chrome and Microsoft Internet Explorer allow third-party cookies. How much impact Firefox’s new policy will have on online behavior advertising is hard to estimate; Firefox has about 20 to 30 percent of browswers. The big question is whether Microsoft and Google, the big two companies that depend on online advertising, will follow suit. Microsoft last year raised the ire of the advertising community by rolling out a default Do Not Track browser header, which sends a signal to third parties not to track users. However, the ad community said it would not honor the setting.”
  • Firefox 22 will block third-party cookies (Ars Technica/Megan Geuss) “The balance between user privacy and money from advertisers has been difficult to strike. Last February, the US suggested companies agree to an ‘Internet Privacy Agreement’ that would protect users who added themselves to a ‘Do Not Track’ list. Despite the publication of that agreement, little real change has occurred in companies’ practices.”
  • The new Firefox cookie policy (Web Policy/Jonathan Mayer) “If a Firefox user appears to have intentionally interacted with your content, take the same approach as for Safari users. Examples of content within this category include Facebook apps and comment widgets where a user has typed text. If a user does not seem to have intentionally interacted with your content, or if you’re uncertain, you should ask for permission before setting cookies. Most analytics services, advertising networks, and unclicked social widgets would come within this category.”

Helpful fact:
Anant Garg has blogged a nice explanation (with diagrams) of how third-party cookies work, “Busting the cookies and privacy myth.”