Consumer Watchdog Praises Mozilla For Taking New Steps To Protect Privacy Online

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Santa Monica, CA – Consumer Watchdog today praised Mozilla as the nonprofit foundation announced it would move forward with addition of a setting in its popular Firefox browser to block the most intrusive tracking “cookies” by default.   

Cookies are little bits of computer code that can be placed on a browser so that your activity can be tracked as you surf across the web.  The most invasive tracking is done by sites the user hasn’t even visited — so-called 3rd-party sites, Consumer Watchdog said.

“Most people don’t want to be spied on when they go online,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Director. “Mozilla is now making privacy protection the default. You can’t get any more user-friendly than that.”

Earlier this year Mozilla said Firefox  — like Apple’s Safari – would block cookies from sites not actually visited by the user.  The blocking patch that was added to a trial version of Firefox was developed by Stanford graduate student and researcher Jonathan Mayer. However, Mozilla delayed implementation after it expressed technical concerns about false positives and false negatives and to date has continued their internal testing.

Read Mozilla’s statement here:

The online ad industry expressed outrage at the earlier announcement, with one trade association executive calling the move a “nuclear first-strike,” even though Apple’s Safari has used the setting for over decade.

Mozilla made today’s announcement after Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society launched a “Cookie Clearinghouse.” The clearinghouse, created by Privacy researcher Aleecia McDonald, would provide browsers with lists so the problem of false positives and false negatives would be avoided.

Read the “Cookie Clearinghouse" announcement here:

“Mozilla should be congratulated for their dedication to protect consumer privacy in the face of extreme industry pressure,” said Simpson. “They have also demonstrated a justifiable concern about getting this right from a technical point of view and Stanford’s Cookie Clearinghouse was key to solving those issues. Kudos to both.”

Mozilla’s announcement comes at a critical point for online privacy as the US Senate is considering a bill that would use a different technology – Do Not Track – to protect consumers online. Introduced by Senators Rockefeller (D-WV) and Blumenthal (D-CT) it would charge the Federal Trade Commission with establishing standards by which consumers could tell online companies, including mobile applications, that they do not want their information collected. And in turn, the FTC would be charged with ensuring that companies respect a consumer’s Do Not Track choice.

Read more about the Rockefeller-Blumenthal Do Not Track bill here:

“Mozilla’s action, made possible by Stanford’s Cookie Clearinghouse, is just a small step towards regaining our online privacy,” Simpson said. “But hopefully this signals a tectonic shift in the browser privacy world and we will see the other major browsers — Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome — follow suit soon.”

Read More about Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Here:

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Jamie Court
Jamie Court
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. The author of three books, he has led dozens of campaigns to reform insurance companies, financial institutions, energy companies, political accountability and health care companies.

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