Firefox 22 and the Great Data Privacy Debate

affilinet Supports the Drive Towards Digital Privacy
The national implementations of the EU ePrivacy Directive have seen privacy challenges move clearly onto the radar of businesses in the Performance Marketing space over the last 18 months. affilinet has been supporting this change by hosting informative events for publishers, advertisers and agencies explaining what the directive demands, and how to deal with it. At the 2013 Affiliate Tactixx Event (in Munich), affilinet reiterated the need for a pro-active response to the growing public concern over privacy (download our whitepaper for further information), and showcased its Consent Wizard solution – an initial step towards helping more of its publisher base become compliant.

Complacency Still Exists
To date, the general market reaction to current and forthcoming legislation has been sluggish, with some parties still of the opinion that there is no need to take any action at all. This kind of complacency shows that the steps taken in Europe may have had limited initial impact, both within the union and on a global scale, with US the only significant market appearing to be moving in a similar direction to the EU.

Mozilla’s Reaction
In the ‘Battle for Default’ it comes as no surprise that Mozilla has zeroed in on the privacy concerns of users to establish Firefox as the most secure and privacy sensitive browser available. Economic & political unions such as the EU take time to get things done and, often, national laws don’t move much faster, so Mozilla decided to implement change itself, which will be felt globally on 17th June 2013.

Already available as a test version (Aurora) to download from the Mozilla website, Firefox 22 follows a clear trend started last year by Microsoft, if the market fails to deliver self-regulatory efforts the browser manufacturer will respond with its own adaptations. Microsoft released its IE10 browser with Do Not Track switched on by default. However, end users struggled to locate the setting to make individual changes, which completely flied in the face of the DNT concept, which is to provide end users with a transparent and intuitive control mechanism.

The Firefox 22 release will not just ship with Do Not Track switched on, the developers of the browser have taken things a step further and set the blocking of third party cookies as default. Many of you will be aware that Apple’s Safari browser has been operating under this model for some time, but the difference is that Firefox has a substantially higher market share than Safari, which makes this change a big headache for the advertising industry. Firefox is currently one of the most widely used browsers, achieving a 45% market share in some regions!

The facts:
• Firefox 22 will block all third party cookies from domains not visited directly by the user. This change therefore largely affects tracking domains.
• However, if the domain in question has already previously dropped a first party cookie, the third party cookie will be accepted, providing the first party cookie is still set. This favours large portal sites in particular, but will also benefit tracking companies in the interim.
• In contrast to DNT (which is merely a header that serves as a signal), blocking third party cookies prevents tracking companies and adservers from dropping any cookies at all.
• In contrast to Safari, Firefox has a country and target group-dependent market share of 25% to 45%.
• Based on past experience, we expect the market rollout of version 22 to be completed within 2 to 4 weeks.
Affected
• Post-view tracking via third party cookies
• Retargeting via third party cookies
• Multi Channel de-duplication / tracking solution that use third party cookies
Unaffected
• Post-click tracking (as implemented by affilinet)

Conclusion
The fact that Mozilla’s Firefox 22 will block third party cookies is just another step in a long and ongoing discussion that has unfortunately seen little pro-active contribution from the online advertising industry. We are therefore seeing browser manufacturers playing an increasingly key role as “gatekeepers” to the Internet; unfortunately their actions are not being channelled or reined in by any legislative or regulatory authority…

affilinet is fully aware of this issue and has spent many months driving communication on the data privacy topic. It has also been developing solutions, such as the recently released Consent Wizard for publisher compliance, and is working quickly to update tracking capabilities to minimize the impact of the Firefox 22 release. Ultimately, affilinet is looking to provide a cookie-less device tracking solutions.

If you have any queries, please feel free to contact our Data Privacy team at privacy@affili.net

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