It’s reported as a statement of fact that the placement of third party cookies will automatically be disabled in Firefox version 22. We’re currently in version 19, but, Firefox engineers work on features several versions out.

Mike Zaneis said that this would be a ‘nuclear first strike against ad industry‘.

Why They’re Upset

Cookies are money. People just don’t like it when things are taken away.

Third party cookies are text files, placed on a browser by code executed on the browser, and read by bits of code elsewhere. The idea is for whoever is reading those cookies to know more about where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, and, to an extent, profile who and what you are. Cookies were originally invented as a piece of web analytics feature, to record whether or not a browser had visited a site before or not, back in 1994. Cookies were worth the cost of implementation in 1994. They’re worth more today.

People always find new uses for technology. They were integrated into formal web analytics software in 1995, back when ‘returning visitor’ was considered to be a killer feature, and later integrated into eCommerce (remembering what’s in your cart, among other personalization features), testing, and, advertising.

Cookies support several key business models in paid media.

An affiliate only gets paid if they put a cookie on the browser, and you complete a purchase within a certain timespan and don’t clear your cookies. First party cookies aren’t an issue, but, the expansive ad network model, and arbitrage plays, are pressured. No cookie, no proof, no payment. Cookies are vital in targeting.

Cookies also provide profiling information to different companies. And there’s a whole range of companies that are dedicated to detecting anomalies. For instance, the actual banner click-through rate is so low that it has more in common with fraud detection algorithms than it really has with traditional sample statistics. There’s an industry of quants dedicated to figuring out which groups of people are likely to respond to which category of ads. Many of these industries (not all) are heavily reliant on third party cookies.

Not all people in these industries, both analytics, paid media attribution, and ad networks in general, are bad. Most of them have done no harm to anyone. And there are quite a few non-hyperbolic, respectful, thoughtful, and ethical people in these industries. The vast majority of third party cookies do not contain any Personally Identifiable Information about you. And, the argument that the response is not proportional to the harm really done is an argument they can make.

The issue with third party cookies isn’t so much the good that they generate. Many of us appreciate personalization and the monetary-free content that it enables. Many more of us appreciate the better experiences that some sites have delivered as a result of iterative testing.

The issue with third party cookies is permission and permissive use.

To a certain extent, it has been a very long slog to educate the primary users of digital advertising data to understand what the terms really mean. It’ll be an even longer slog to educate the public about the benefits. But it should be worth it.

Which is why the benefits of cookies should be evident, anticipated, and welcomed.

So, you should be told about the awesome benefits of third party cookies, and, you should be asked to opt-in. Firms that rely on your data should tell you what they’re doing with it.

Authintic is okay with this development. To an extent, the reaction to cookies, and, the reaction from IAB in particular, is overdone. It’s good for the industry and consumers in the long run. Force the benefits of the technology to the surface and let people themselves decide.

It’s the way we should have been treating it from the beginning.

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