Mozilla, maker of the popular Firefox web browser, recently announced that it was going to start experimenting with restricting cookies--the digital codes that remember which websites people visit.
The news, while seemingly limited to one company, sparked instant debate within the industry and has possibly huge implications for online advertising, according to the Washington Post.
“If third-party cookies are blocked, thousands of ad-supported small businesses—start-ups, small publishers, and mom-and-pop shops—will be forced to close down,” wrote Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, in a statement. “These small businesses can’t afford to hire large advertising teams.”
While advertisers and small businesses are reportedly scrambling in response to the announcement, Mozilla said in its privacy blog that its users often convey concerns about web tracking, and this move was a response to them. A recent survey by Ovum found that 68 percent of the Internet population would choose a do-not-track feature on their browsers if it were easily accessible.
Apple’s Safari browser already employs a similar strategy that blocks tracking cookies.
Last year, the Obama administration resurrected the "Do Not Track" initiative, but because of a serious rift within the industry on how consumer privacy and data should be handled, it has gained little momentum.