Mozilla checks in with Cookie Clearinghouse for better cookie handling
The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School has announced a list-based exception platform for managing cookies, called the Cookie Clearinghouse (CCH). Mozilla has committed to work with the CCH Advisory Board to develop the platform.
Mozilla's recent attempts to bring in better handling of cookies – in the form of Safari's third-party cookie block – and reduce the tracking of users ended up in "development hell" a month ago. This was not, though, a result of criticism from advertising groups, but because it was generating too many false positives and false negatives when deciding whether to block cookies from third-party sites.
Mozilla's CTO Brendan Eich explained that the problem was that the naive algorithm in use in the patch needed an exception mechanism which did not solely rely on the user and that this meant looking for a "centralized block-list (to cure false negatives) and allow-list (for false positives) service". The Cookie Clearinghouse is just such a list system and Mozilla has decided to work with the CCH so that it can develop a new solution based around it.
The immediate impact of this is that the "Safari patch" will remain available only in the Aurora release of Firefox. Mozilla will be developing a list-caching integration of the CCH lists, using mechanisms similar to how the safe-browsing blacklist is handled. Eich asks for feedback on Mozilla's proposals.
The Cookie Clearinghouse itself will be identifying instances where cookie tracking is being conducted by third-party sites that users never visit and will consult with an advisory board on how to handle the various cases of that. The CCH Advisory board consists of browser makers such as Mozilla and Opera Software, privacy researchers and experts in small businesses and European law. There will also be the ability for the project to take on board comment from the public. The project emerged from Stanford researchers' Do Not Track project, which has turned into a wider global proposal for user-managed tracking.
“Internet users are starting to understand that their online activities are closely monitored, often by companies they have never heard of before” said Aleecia M. McDonald, the Director of Privacy at CIS, "but Internet users currently don’t have the tools they need to make online privacy choices. The Cookie Clearinghouse will create, maintain, and publish objective information." The operation of the Clearinghouse will also include routes for companies who are blacklisted to request reclassification.